Agencies Look at Whether Boeing Made Part as Designed

FAA tells 737 Max 9 builder to find the reason panel blew out within 10 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2024 6:10 PM CST
Agencies Look at Whether Boeing Made Part as Designed
This photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board shows the door plug from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Monday in Portland, Oregon.   (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether Boeing failed to make sure a panel that blew off a jetliner in midflight last week was safe and manufactured to the design that regulators approved. The FAA investigation announced Thursday is focusing on plugs used to fill spots for extra exits when those doors are not required on Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners, the AP reports. Boeing said it would cooperate with the investigation and one being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board. The 63-pound door plug that blew off an Alaska Airlines Max 9 was found near Portland, Oregon, and will be examined in the NTSB's laboratory.

"This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again," the FAA said in a statement. "Boeing's manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they're legally accountable to meet." The FAA notified Boeing of the investigation in a letter dated Wednesday. "After the incident, the FAA was notified of additional discrepancies on other Boeing 737-9 airplanes," an FAA official wrote. Alaska and United Airlines reported finding loose bolts on door plugs that they inspected on some of their other Max 9 jets.

The FAA asked Boeing to respond within 10 business days and tell the agency "the root cause" of the problem with the door plug and the steps the company is taking to prevent a recurrence. The door plugs are installed by Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, but investigators have not said which company's employees last worked on the plug on the Alaska plane that suffered the blowout. The FAA has grounded Max 9 jets, including all 65 operated by Alaska and 79 used by United Airlines, until Boeing can develop inspection guidelines and planes can be examined. Alaska has canceled all flights by Max 9s through Saturday. NTSB investigators said this week they have not been able to find four bolts that are used to help secure the 63-pound door plug.

(More Boeing Max 9 stories.)

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