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NTSB Confirms: Missing Bolts Led to Boeing Jetliner Midflight Panel Blowout

February 6, 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a recent investigation, it was revealed that critical bolts securing a panel on a Boeing 737 Max 9 were absent before the panel blew off an Alaska Airlines aircraft last month, as reported by accident investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the incident dated Jan. 5, shedding light on the missing bolts and their impact on the harrowing emergency landing that ensued.

Included in the report was a revealing photo provided by Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer, showcasing the absence of three out of four bolts crucial for preventing the panel’s upward movement. The fourth bolt’s location remained obscured, suggesting a systemic issue.

Forensic analysis by investigators indicated the absence of expected damage around the panel, indicating that all four bolts were missing prior to the aircraft’s departure from Portland, Oregon.

The compromised panel, known as a door plug, was supplied by Spirit AeroSystems and underwent installation at Boeing’s facility near Seattle. Notably, the plug arrived with five damaged rivets, prompting Boeing technicians to replace them, necessitating the removal of the critical bolts.

The severity of the incident was underscored by safety experts, highlighting the potential catastrophe had the aircraft reached cruising altitude. Concerns linger over the implications of cabin decompression and passenger safety in such scenarios.

Boeing’s CEO, David Calhoun, assumed responsibility for the incident, emphasizing Boeing’s accountability throughout its supply chain. This admission comes amid ongoing scrutiny over Boeing’s manufacturing standards following the tragic crashes of two Max 8 jets in 2018 and 2019.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively investigating Boeing’s adherence to safety protocols in Max manufacturing. Until quality concerns are addressed, the FAA has halted Boeing’s 737 production acceleration.

FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker provided insight into the ongoing audit of Boeing’s manufacturing processes and its primary supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, stressing the agency’s commitment to ensuring aircraft safety and production integrity.

 

Credit: AP

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