The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the Alaska Airlines Boeing Max 9 midair blowout last month, finding that four key bolts were missing from the door plug.
“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 plug moved upward off the stop pads,” the report reads.
The 19-page report on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 comes one month and a day after the flight was forced to make an emergency landing on Jan. 5, shortly after taking off from Oregon’s Portland International Airport.
A door plug blew off the jetliner as it was ascending for a trip to California.
No injuries were reported on the plane, which was carrying 171 passengers and six crew members at the time.
“The manufacturing/human performance group has done a complete records review from the time the event airplane left the Boeing factory to the time of the accident and found no evidence that the left MED (mid-exit door) plug was opened after leaving Boeing’s facility,” the report read.
The Jan. 5 blowout prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to ground similar Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners to allow for inspections, which resulted in thousands of flight cancellations.
Government agencies investigated potential hazards that could affect flights from Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two U.S. air carriers that use the 737 MAX 9, but those planes have since been cleared for travel again as of Jan 24.
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The head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Whitaker, spent Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill speaking to lawmakers and emphasizing that the current system is not working.
“I certainly agree that the current system is not working, because it’s not delivering safe aircraft,” Whitaker said. “So we have to make changes to that.”
NTSB added that they will also be looking at Boeing’s SMS and Spirit AeroSystems’ ongoing development of its voluntary SMS program. The group will also assess the FAA’s involvement in the manufacturers’ development of their respective SMS programs and the level of oversight applied to each.
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“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,” Whitaker 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.”
United Airlines announced last month that it found loose bolts on its Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, days after an Alaska Airlines plane of the same model lost a door plug mid-air.
Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun issued his own statement on Tuesday saying that Boeing is taking immediate action to strengthen quality.
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“Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened. 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,” Calhoun stated. “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.”
In addition to these Boeing actions, Calhoun said they are opening their factory to 737 customers to conduct their own additional reviews, and will fully and transparently support the FAA’s investigation, audit and oversight actions.
“This added scrutiny – from ourselves, from our regulator and from our customers – will make us better. It’s that simple,” said Calhoun.
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