The US says the Boeing 737 plane in the Alaska air accident was missing bolts

The US says the Boeing 737 plane in the Alaska air accident was missing bolts

A tragic accident involving an Alaska Airlines plane last month was apparently caused by a door seal that was not installed properly before the plane was delivered by Boeing, US investigators said on Tuesday.

Four screws that served as a fail-safe mechanism to hold the panel in place were not installed on the Boeing 737 Max 9, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The accident has become Boeing’s biggest crisis since its entire fleet of MAX jets was grounded worldwide in 2019 after two fatal crashes. The Max 9 planes, which have the same door configuration as the Alaska plane, have been grounded for weeks so they can be inspected, and regulators are studying Boeing’s manufacturing operations and increasing pressure on the company’s management.

The NTSB report said evidence from the recovered door and fuselage indicated that all four bolts “were missing.” The report does not reach any conclusions about the cause of the January 5 failure, but it is an unusually detailed account of the safety board’s initial fact-gathering. It contains photos of the later malfunctioning panel taken on the Boeing shop floor.

Work was done on the board during final assembly, but the NTSB is still reviewing what was done and why. It can take a year or more for the safety board to finalize its official findings.

“The investigation continues to determine manufacturing documentation that was used to allow the left MED plug to be opened and closed while the rivet was being reworked,” the report said in reference to the failed plate.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, Boeing’s most important supplier, also came under scrutiny in the wake of the incident.

The accident occurred when a panel closing an unused door on the left side of an Alaska Air Group Inc. plane exploded. Shortly after takeoff from Portland, it violently lost pressure and exposed passengers and crew to high winds and noise. While returning for an emergency landing. No serious injuries were reported.

The panel, known as a door seal, is held in place by 12 struts that withstand the huge pressure difference between the cabin and the thin air at altitude. A separate set of four screws is designed to hold it in place. The panel opens by sliding up and the screws, which include pins to prevent them from loosening accidentally, prevent that movement.

Issues with Boeing’s work on the MAX family of jets continue to arise. On February 4, the company revealed that it had discovered manufacturing defects related to bolt holes in about 50 undelivered 737 aircraft. A spokesman for that company said the problem originated with Spirit.

The issue revealed on February 4 is the latest in a series of bugs that originated with Boeing’s former airframe unit. A pothole accident on the back pressure bulkhead supplied by Spirit Aero slowed deliveries of the 737 MAX last year, the planemaker’s most important cash flow generator. A separate issue with tail assemblies affected production earlier in 2023.

Boeing will also have to deal with the possibility of business disruption later this year. Boeing’s largest union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, will demand a 40% pay rise over three or four years, encouraged by a resurgent American labor movement, a scarcity of qualified aerospace workers and pressure on Boeing to stabilize work at its plants. .

The FAA is also conducting enhanced oversight of Boeing and Spirit. The agency is about halfway through its review and expects to release findings and potential recommendations as soon as this month, Jodi Baker, FAA deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, said Monday.

picture: The NTSB investigator in charge examines the fuselage connection area of ​​Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on January 7, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. Photographer: Bulletin/Getty Images North America

Copyright 2024 Bloomberg.

United States Aviation and Aerospace Alaska

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