March 4, 2024

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The federal investigator has not determined whether the bolts were on the part that blew up the 737 MAX in Alaska

The federal investigator has not determined whether the bolts were on the part that blew up the 737 MAX in Alaska

Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Spirit AeroSystems offices in Farmers Branch, Texas.


Investigators are investigating why part of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 was found It exploded open mid-flight Earlier this month it was not determined whether bolts had been installed on that piece of the plane.

The investigation is ongoing, National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy told reporters after a closed briefing for lawmakers on Wednesday. Investigators are determining why the door seal, which is supposed to cover a space left by the removed emergency exit door in the side of the plane, blew off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on January 5 and It left a big gap On the side of the plane.

She said the investigation isn't just focused on the screws, and her teams are currently collecting extensive records about the door stop's assembly and its journey from Malaysia, where it was first manufactured, to factories in Wichita, Kansas, and Renton, Washington. She said it was not clear whether Boeing employees had removed the plug from the fuselage when it arrived in Renton from its subcontractor, Spirit Aerosystems.

Scientists at the NTSB laboratory are currently examining the plug but have not yet begun disassembling it, she said.

“They have very bright lighting. They do target photography,” Homendy said. “They might take some metal shavings and put them under an electron microscope.”

Then next week, NTSB officials will begin unplugging the door to further examine its construction.

Homendy said she and the FAA chief, who participated in the Senate Commerce Committee briefing virtually, spoke once or twice most days.

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Expanded investigation

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that it is Expanding its probe In quality control of the Boeing 737 Max 9 after the plane exploded this month.

In a new statement, the FAA said it is now investigating contractor Spirit AeroSystems, which is building the Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage. I opened an investigation In quality control at Boeing after the Alaska Airlines incident.

The FAA says the investigation will focus on whether Boeing “failed to ensure that the completed products conformed to their approved design and were in a safe operating condition in accordance with FAA regulations.” Boeing said in a statement last Thursday that it “will fully and transparently cooperate with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigations.”

Spirit Aerosystems did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration says all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes in the United States remain grounded, and the agency has received new data from initial inspections of 40 of those planes.

“The first 40 inspections that are part of this process are now complete, and the FAA will carefully review the data from them,” the FAA said in a statement. “Once the FAA approves this inspection and maintenance process, this process will be required on every grounded 737-9 MAX aircraft prior to future operation.”

To help restore confidence in manufacturing, Boeing said Monday it would do so Allowing airlines to enter Boeing factories and those of Spirit AeroSystems.

Spirit AeroSystems shareholders last year File a federal lawsuit against the company, accusing it of causing “widespread and persistent quality failures” in its products.

The quality failures, which allegedly ranged from debris in products to missing fasteners and peeling paint, led Boeing to place Spirit on probation from about 2018 to at least 2021, the suit states. It does not specifically mention door stoppers.

The lawsuit alleges that “continued quality failures resulted in part from Spirit’s culture that prioritized production numbers and short-term financial results over product quality, and Spirit’s related failure to employ sufficient employees to deliver high-quality products at the rates demanded by Spirit and its customers, including Boeing.” ”

The lawsuit also states that a former Spirit AeroSystems employee who worked as a quality manager and inspector and was not named in the lawsuit wrote an ethics complaint to the company in 2022 describing an “excessive amount of defects” in the products. The former employee believed that “Spirit treated product transportation as more important than quality,” according to the lawsuit.

“Spirit strongly disagrees with the assertions made by the plaintiffs in the amended complaint and intends to vigorously defend against these claims,” Spirit AeroSystems spokesman Joe Buccino said in a statement last week. Spirit will not comment further on the pending litigation.

In April, Spirit AeroSystems It has been identified Production issue in the rear fuselage portion of some 737 models. “This is not a direct flight safety issue. We have processes in place to address these types of production issues upon identification, which we are following,” the company later said in a statement.

In August the company a statement Inappropriate holes were drilled in the “back pressure bulkhead” in some 737 fuselage models. Both Spirit and Boeing said in Formulations It has been determined that the problem does not constitute an immediate aviation safety concern.

This story has been updated with additional developments and context