Brand New Alaska Airlines 737 MAX Has Piece Of Tail Fall Off – After Just 4 Days

A brand new Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 had a piece of its tail fall off enroute from Seattle to Chicago on Monday. The plane landed at 6:13 p.m. local time and remained on the ground overnight. It had only been in revenue service for four days, made sixteen passenger flights, and had been registered to Alaska for just a week.

@beam5192 on Instagram shares that the details with a photo:

Brand new N990AK on only her 4th day of revenue service had a part of its tail come off, I’m assuming inflight. Been on the ground over 18 hours and still left on the gate, causing Alaska passengers to sit hours after landing with no gate to park at.

Credit: @beam5192 on Instagram

They also reported that the plane finally taxied to gate G2 at Chicago O’Hare (and throws some shade at JetBlue in the process):

Things happen to planes, even to new planes, and this one will be fine! But when 737 MAX deliveries have been slowed due to a quality issue with parts on MAX jets this year (albeit the MAX 8 variant) this isn’t what you want to see.

Update: Alaska Airlines adds,

The aircraft went out of service Monday night at Chicago O’Hare for a system fault. Most likely the aircraft was parked at a remote pad waiting for the part to arrive. It was then taxied by maintenance to the gate for repairs. In order to troubleshoot and fix the issue, the maintenance team removed a panel on the side of the vertical stabilizer. The aircraft fault was corrected and the aircraft was returned to service Tuesday afternoon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It really has been a while since Boeing was synonymous with quality. Actually, exactly since the merger where legacy Boeing management was shown the door.

  2. Will, AIRBUS you say? With the 321 P&W engine issues. No thanks. I’ll take losing a piece of sheet metal over an engine for $1000, please Alex.

  3. @Mr G: Which airlines do you fly that have better safety records and have never had accidents due to maintenance? You’re not flying American, United, Delta, or Southwest, so just curious.

  4. Not part of a tail cone. It is an access panel for a rudder actuator.

    Hard to know the cause – could.have been a squawk and an inspection, and someone forgot some.or all of the fasteners. There is absolutely no way that would be missed by the airline acceptance inspector pre-delivery.

  5. @Derek, it was a snarky reference to AS261. This airplane was delivered on 11 Sept 2023, so by that time Alaska Airlines had had it for 7 days.
    @Mark, an access panel is off but it is not part of the tail cone. It is part of the vertical stabilizer and can be seen in maintenance photos for this aircraft. The video following the photo is of a different airplane as the registration number is different. The airplane in the video has no apparent damage to my untrained eye. If the access panel is what came off, it it possible that someone went into it and didn’t fasten it correctly. A lot of unanswered questions in this report, first of which is why muddy the water by showing two different airplanes?

  6. That is NOT part of the tail cone, its part of the tail. Its an access panel to service rudder actuators. Learn your aircraft parts before you report

  7. Based on this incident, is there any reason to worry? I’m a frequent Alaska flyer, but have no knowledge whatsoever re airplane equipment safety.

  8. @jns – Yes, that is what I said. Not part of the tail cone, contrary to what the post said.

    I still contend it is highly unlikely that the access panel was missing fasteners at delivery. A maintainer may have gone in for some reason, and sealed but forgot the fasteners.

  9. So you add the update from Alaska Airlines that indicates the part did not fall off mid-flight, but you don’t edit the title or original content of your post?

  10. The headline says: “Plane lost part of tail.” The photo and article say the plane lost an inspection plate. That would not negatively affect the plane. Big deal. With this low quality of reporting, one might just as well read the New York Times.

  11. Speaking of low quality reporting, it should be noted that the airplane in the photo is a different airplane than the airplane in the video (different registration number, no missing panel).

  12. How about updating your headline to admit it didn’t actually fall off during flight. Talk about lazy ass “journalism.”

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