Safety inspection reveals 'many' loose bolts on Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9s after door plug flew off mid-flight

  • A safety inspection of Alaska Airline's Boeing 737 Max 9 planes found "many" loose bolts.

  • The inspection came after an in-flight emergency in which a door plug came loose and window blew out.

  • The company's CEO told NBC News he was "angry" at the findings.

A safety inspection of Alaska Airline's Boeing 737 Max 9 planes revealed "many" loose bolts were found on the commercial airline's fleet.

The inspection was prompted by an in-flight emergency earlier this month, in which a door plug came loose, and a window blew out, causing Alaska Airlines flight 1282, heading from Portland to Ontario, California, to make an emergency landing and the airline to ground its fleet of 65 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes.

"I'm more than frustrated and angry that this happened to Alaska Airlines," Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci told Business Insider in a statement. "It happened to our guests and our people. My demand on Boeing is what are they going to do to improve their quality program in-house."

The CEO's comments were first reported by NBC News.

The CEO also said that the company would be sending its "audit people to audit their quality control systems" and oversee Boeing's production line.

Boeing declined to comment, referring BI to Alaska Airlines.

The Alaska CEO's statements come after inspections of the Boeing 737 Max 9 planes following the January 5 incident. United Airlines also previously announced that it had found loose bolts that appear to "relate to installation issues in the door plug."

The door plug on Boeing 737 Max 9 planes — optionally put in place in some 737 Max 9 planes based on seating capacity — is installed with four stop bolts, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident. Earlier this month, the agency told reporters that the door plug fitted into the Alaska Airlines plane involved in the incident was found "fractured."

This indicated to the NTSB that the door plug had disengaged, but the agency is investigating whether the bolts were there in the first place or if something happened that resulted in the bolts failing.

On Monday, the FAA announced that it had found door plug issues with other Boeing models beyond the 737 Max planes and urged airline carriers to conduct inspections on the Boeing 737 900ER, Forbes reported.

Because of the issues Boeing is facing with its planes, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC that he is considering moving away from the plane for future orders. The carrier had ordered 150 Max 10s — the largest version of the narrowbody jet — per CNBC.

"The Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel's back for us," Kirby said. "We're gonna build an alternative plan that just doesn't have the Max 10 in it."

There are still many questions that need answering

Although stories of loose bolts are concerning, the exact cause of the Alaska Airlines incident could take months to determine as the NTSB continues its investigation.

Justin Green, an aviation accident attorney at Kreindler & Kreindler, told BI that new revelations raise more questions about the plane's design.

Green said many pilots he had spoken to were confused as to why the door plug needed to exist in the first place. He said the optional emergency exit could be created solely for airlines that want to implement a higher seat capacity, which would reduce the potential for errors.

Green also said that if investigators do find that the loose bolts are the culprit of the Alaska Airlines incident, the next step would be to scrutinize why the system in place had failed so easily.

"The fact that one or two or three bolts might be loose shouldn't cause the whole thing to fail unless the design of the system is too weak," Green told BI.

While investigators search for answers, passengers are already bringing forth a lawsuit against Boeing and Alaska Airlines.

Last week, four people who were on the January 5 flight filed a suit saying they had experienced "intense fear, distress, anxiety, trauma" and more, ABC News reported. In the lawsuit, the litigants say they were convinced they were going to die on the Boeing jet.

Green, who served as a cochair on the plaintiff's committee prosecuting the case arising from the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash, told BI he believes their lawsuit will be "remarkably successful" and hopes it will help "improve the quality control process" for Boeing and its manufacturers.

"I think that they'll also, hopefully, put a price on what happened," Green said.

Correction: January 23, 2024 — An earlier headline stated that a door had flown off of the January 5 Alaska Airlines flight. It was a door plug, not a door.

Correction: January 24, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the door plug failure. It was January 5, not January 6.

Read the original article on Business Insider