Following an investigation into the door panel that fell off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 while in mid-air, it was discovered that no bolts were installed on the door plug.
Preliminary findings were released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
A picture of the plane in a factory in Renton, Washington, revealed the door panel lacked bolts, the NTSB said.
“Photo documentation obtained from Boeing shows evidence of the left-hand MED plug closed with no retention hardware (bolts) in the three visible locations,” the report said, using an acronym for the middle exit door.
It remains unclear at what stage in the manufacturing process the aircraft was in when the photo was taken, NBC News reported.
Boeing released a statement saying it appreciates the NTSB’s work and will review the findings “expeditiously” and continue to cooperate with investigations by the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration.
“Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said in the 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. We are implementing a comprehensive plan to strengthen quality and the confidence of our stakeholders. It will take significant, demonstrated action and transparency at every turn — and that is where we are squarely focused.”
The flight was carrying 177 passengers and crew on a flight from Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 5 bound for Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County, California, when the door plug blew off, leaving a hole in the side of the aircraft.
The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
“We’re proposing to expand the oversight approach to include both audits and inspection which is why we’re moving inspectors into the facilities,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “We know what we need to do next, which is to have more on-the-ground presence to verify what’s going on.”
Whitaker added the Jan. 5 incident has prompted the FAA to determine if there are any issues with production at Boeing.
“There have been issues in the past and they don’t seem to be getting resolved so we feel we need a heightened sense of oversight to get after that,” he said. “I think we’re gonna need more boots on the ground, we’re gonna need more inspectors. We don’t have many inspectors on the aircraft certification side of the house.”
Several of the passengers have sued Boeing. The class-action lawsuit claims that the company “delivered the subject 737 Max 9 to Alaska Airlines, Inc. without properly securing the (door) plug to the airframe,” adding that the bolts and seals used to install the panel were defective.
They said the incident left them traumatized and physically injured.
The lawsuit states that after the door plug fell off, the plane depressurized and “ripped the shirt off of a boy and sucked cell phones, other debris and much of the oxygen out of the aircraft.”
The door plug was l recovered and then sent to Washington as part of the NTSB’s investigation.
Photo reveals Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max was missing 4 key bolts after maintenance at Boeing’s factory, months before blowout – NTSB pic.twitter.com/fP6fz21HDO
— BNO News (@BNONews) February 6, 2024