This photo provided by an unnamed source shows the damaged part of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9, Flight 1282, which was forced to return to Portland International Airport on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. (The Oregonian via AP)
The piece of an Alaska Airlines plane that blew out mid-flight last month was missing all four bolts meant to secure it, federal investigators said in a report released Tuesday.
Three of the missing bolts were evident in a photo that was part of a text message exchange between Boeing employees, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB lab tests revealed that the fourth bolt, which was not visible in the photo, was also not installed, the report said.
A door plug blew out of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Jan. 5 while it was 16,000 feet in the air, opening a gaping hole in the main cabin of the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. Everyone onboard escaped with their lives, as the crew quickly turned the flight around and returned to Portland, Ore., where the flight had initially departed.
The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration immediately began investigating the incident. They learned the aircraft’s fuselage arrived at Boeing’s factory in Renton, Wash. on Aug. 31, 2023.
Boeing employees quickly noticed a problem with the fuselage, which was assembled by Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan. Spirit AeroSystems was spun off from Boeing in 2005 and has no relation to Spirit Airlines.
Damaged rivets around the door plug were identified on Sept. 1, according to the report. To repair the rivets, workers had to remove the plug, which included removing the four bolts that kept it in place. Investigators believe those bolts were never replaced.
The photo of missing bolts was part of a Sept. 19 text message exchange. The bolts are necessary to keep the door plug from sliding upward and detaching from “stop pads” that secure it to the airframe.
The NTSB did not establish an official cause of the mishap in Tuesday’s preliminary report. That’s expected to be released in the regulator’s final report, which could take more than a year.
“Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in a statement. “An event like this must not happen on an airplane that leaves our factory. We simply must do better for our customers and their passengers.”
With News Wire Services
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