When a door panel plug removed itself from a Boeing 737 MAX 9 on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on January 5, the blame was initially placed on Spirit AeroSystems — Boeing’s supplier. However, according to a whistleblower to the Seattle Times, Boeing could actually be the culprit for the faulty door that caused many 737 MAX 9 aircraft to be grounded indefinitely.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the governmental body tasked with investigation transportation-related incidents, has not yet confirmed the whistleblowers claims. However, if the reports about Boeing are correct, then the company has a long road ahead of it to ensure that its planes are safe to fly on, especially popular models like the 737.
This comes only a few years after two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed in 2018 and 2019, resulting in not only the grounding of all 737 MAX planes, but the loss of 346 lives on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
Boeing’s long road ahead
According to the whistleblower, bolts used to secure the door panel plug weren’t even installed from the factory. If confirmed, this speaks volumes about not only how Boeing runs its commercial aviation business, but also how airliners are inspected and approved for use.
Theoretically, someone on the production line or final inspection should have noticed the fact that the plane wasn’t properly built. On January 21, the Federal Aviation Administration released a statement that informed airlines that they should be checking door panel plugs on all Boeing 737-900ER aircraft. On January 17, the FAA released a statement informing that it would be taking a deep dive into Boeing’s overall manufacturing.
Even when it comes to non-737 MAX 9 aircraft, it seems Boeing can’t escape bad press and safety alerts. Just yesterday, a Boeing 757 flying for Delta Airlines lost a front landing gear wheel as it prepared to takeoff. Fortunately, the plane did not take off and no one was injured.