NATIONAL NEWS

Key bolts were missing from a Boeing door plug that blew out in mid-air, report says

Feb 6, 2024, 3:51 PM

FILE: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane sits at a gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airp...

FILE: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane sits at a gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on January 6, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. Alaska Airlines grounded its 737 MAX 9 planes after part of a fuselage blew off during a flight from Portland Oregon to Ontario, California. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(CNN) —Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday said evidence shows four bolts that hold the door plug in place on the Boeing 737 Max 9 were missing at the time of last month’s blowout on Alaska Airlines flight 1282.

The bombshell new finding from federal investigators comes one month and a day after the January 5 incident that triggered a 19-day emergency grounding of all Max 9s, and re-ignited scrutiny of Boeing following the fatal Max 8 crashes of 2018 and 2019.

Boeing acknowledged its responsibility for the blowout in a statement issued after the NTSB report and said it is working to make sure incidents like this do not reoccur.

“Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” said Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun in a statement. “An event like this must not happen on an airplane that leaves our factory. We simply must do better for our customers and their passengers.”

Boeing said it was taking new actions to improve the way it makes the 737 Max 9 planes. That includes more inspections, giving the 737 teams more time “to focus on and implement quality improvements,” and bringing in outside safety experts to assess its operations.

What travelers need to know about the Boeing 737 Max 9 grounding

Evidence points to missing bolts

In their 19-page preliminary report released Tuesday, NTSB investigators included observations from a laboratory disassembly of Alaska 1282’s door plug, which fell 16,000 feet into an Oregon backyard. It said the lack of damage to the plug where the bolts were supposed to attach it to the fuselage of the plane pointed to the conclusion that the bolts were missing at the time of the flight.

“Overall, the observed damage patterns and absence of contact damage or deformation around holes associated with the vertical movement arrestor bolts and upper guide track bolts in the upper guide fittings, hinge fittings, and recovered aft lower hinge guide fitting indicate that the four bolts that prevent upward movement of the MED plug were missing before the MED [mid exit door] plug moved upward off the stop pads,” the report said referring to the mid exit door.

The report included a photo taken in September, more than a month before the plane was delivered to Alaska Air, that show the bolts missing during work on the aircraft, taken from a text message between two Boeing employees obtained by NTSB investigators. It means that the plane flew for a couple of months before the January 5 blowout with the bolts missing.

The report was only the preliminary finding and did not assess blame or cause of the incident. That could come in a final report that could be more than a year away.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday: “This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again. The FAA is continuing to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the Jan. 5 door plug incident.”

The NTSB is in charge of the investigation and will provide any updates.

A bigger problem than one incident

The fact that no one was sitting in the seat next to the gaping hole that appeared in the side of the plane is a key reason there was not a fatality on the flight.

Six crew and 171 passengers were on board the flight, which returned safely to Portland International Airport. Nobody was seriously hurt in the incident.

The missing bolts are apparently not the only problem. Both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines said last month that inspections of their fleets that took place after the January 5 incident revealed loose bolts.

“This is a somewhat complex issue with a lot of parts,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told CNN in the week leading up to the release of the preliminary report. Even still, Homendy stressed that she “would have no problem getting on a Max 9 tomorrow and flying.”

Boeing’s history of quality lapses

The release of the report comes as Boeing’s quality control is under intense scrutiny. During a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said there are now two dozen FAA inspectors on location at Boeing’s Renton, Washington plant as part of an agency audit.

Late Sunday, Boeing disclosed that it would need to “rework” improperly drilled holes discovered on 50 incomplete 737 Max planes still on the production line, causing a slowdown in deliveries.

Later, Boeing fuselage contractor Spirit AeroSystems said it had caused that more recent problem.

A Spirit spokesman said the company is working on “continuous improvement.”

“As we review the NTSB’s preliminary report, we remain focused on working closely with Boeing and our regulators on continuous improvement in our processes and meeting the highest standards of safety, quality and reliability,” spokesman Joe Buccino said in a statement.

What happened onboard

The report also details the shock of the blowout, which caught passengers and crew by surprise.

“The captain said that, while climbing through about 16,000 ft, there was a loud bang,” the report said.

“The flight crew said their ears popped, and the captain said his head was pushed into the heads-up display (HUD) and his headset was pushed up, nearly falling off his head. The FO [first officer] said her headset was completely removed due to the rapid outflow of air from the flight deck.”

CNN has reported that NTSB investigators have been closely scrutinizing the door plug and whether crucial bolts that hold it in place were properly installed when the incident occurred.

FAA is involved in the probe

Meanwhile, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration told House lawmakers Tuesday that his agency is “closely scrutinizing” Boeing after last month’s door plug blowout.

“Going forward, we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in prepared remarks.

The Federal Aviation Administration failed to properly scrutinize Boeing after two fatal crashes of 737 Max aircraft killed 346 people more than four years ago, the agency’s new chief said.

“I wasn’t there at the time as you noted. I guess I would say in retrospect and given what happened with the plug door, it’s hard to call that oversight sufficient,” Whitaker told Congress on Tuesday.  “So, we’re looking at that process and what additional steps need to be taken to make sure that oversight is sufficient.”

Whitaker was sworn in late last year and was not at the FAA at the time of those crashes in 2018 and 2019.  He was previously the second-ranking FAA official from 2013 to 2016. Whitaker appeared before the House aviation subcommittee, his first congressional testimony since being confirmed to the post little more than three months ago.

His agency is currently overhauling how it scrutinizes plane manufacturers, including Boeing, after a hole blew open in the side of a 737 Max 9 last month.

“I certainly agree that the current system is not working cause it is not delivering safe aircraft,” Whitaker said. “We have to make some changes to that. And I think we also have to look at the culture.”


The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Cave filled with clear water...

CNN

You know the most visited, but here are the least visited US national parks in 2023

There are no roads and no trails in America’s least-visited national park. Just vast wilderness. Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, located 200 miles (322 kilometers) north of Fairbanks, stretches over 8.4 million acres.

12 hours ago

Taylor Swift is pictured at the Chiefs-Dolphins playoff game in Kansas City in January. (Ed Zurga, ...

Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

Taylor Swift baked ‘homemade Pop-Tarts’ for Travis Kelce’s teammates, says coach Andy Reid

Thanks to her well-known love of baking, Taylor Swift won over her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s Kansas City Chiefs teammates the old-fashioned way: by baking them “homemade Pop-Tarts,” according to the team’s coach Andy Reid.

13 hours ago

The lowest single-day price for Animal Kingdom has gone up by $10 for 2025 tickets. (AaronP/Bauer-G...

Marnie Hunter, CNN

Walt Disney World has raised ticket prices for 2025

Walt Disney World has put 2025 tickets on sale, and prices for many tickets have gone up from 2024 pricing.

14 hours ago

FILE - A solar farm sits in Mona, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The House voted Friday, April 28,...

Sophie Austin, Associated Press/Report for America

Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes and rural areas

The federal government will fund 17 projects across the U.S. to expand access to renewable energy on Native American reservations and in other rural areas, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

15 hours ago

Police in the Caribbean are investigating the disappearance of an American couple after escaped inm...

Polo Sandoval, Elizabeth Wolfe and Sahar Akbarzai, CNN

Missing American couple allegedly hijacked on yacht in Grenada were likely thrown overboard, police say

The American couple allegedly hijacked by escaped prisoners while on their yacht in Grenada last week were likely thrown overboard, police said.

15 hours ago

FILE - The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is seen, May 11, 2022, at a dealer in Tokyo. In a statement issu...

Associated Press

Toyota recalling 381,000 Tacoma pickups because parts can fall off rear axles, increasing crash risk

Toyota is recalling about 381,000 Tacoma midsize pickup trucks in the U.S. because a part can separate from the rear axle, increasing the risk of a crash.

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Key bolts were missing from a Boeing door plug that blew out in mid-air, report says