Join Simon Calder’s email list for valuable travel tips and ways to save money.
Receive Simon Calder’s Travel newsletter.
A month ago, Flight 1282 of Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon due to a doorplug malfunction. The panel on the back of the plane’s fuselage blew out while the aircraft was at 16,000 feet.
The airline reported that a few passengers on the flight were hurt, but were later declared medically fit by professionals. Debris from the plane, including iPhones and the doorplug, were discovered on the streets and in the yard of a teacher’s school, undamaged.
On January 5, 2024, a major event occurred that resulted in the suspension of all Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. This incident caused the FAA and NTSB to launch investigations into both the aircraft manufacturer and Spirit AeroSystems, the company responsible for manufacturing the doorplug.
The grounding led to hundreds of flight cancellations. A preliminary report for the NTSB investigation revealed that four critical bolts keeping the door plug in place were missing from the plane.
After the emergency, CEO David Calhoun spoke to the company in a town hall and stated that the corporation would handle the incident by acknowledging their error.
According to reports, it is now understood that the plane did not possess the necessary bolts to secure the doorplug when it was manufactured. In response to the incident, both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, who collectively operate 79 planes of this model, have also discovered loose bolts on some of their aircraft.
In late January, the planes’ models resumed flying after undergoing thorough inspections supervised by the FAA.
Nevertheless, representatives from Boeing also uncovered an issue with their aircrafts that will necessitate the modification of 50 planes that have not yet been delivered.
This is all the information we have about the story:
Following the emergency, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board quickly initiated investigations into the flight. NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy described the event as “terrifying,” while the FAA stated that “this incident was unacceptable and must not be repeated.”
A preliminary report released by the NTSB on Tuesday, February 6th, stated that the door plug of the airplane was missing four crucial bolts.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the absence of certain bolts prevented the plug from moving upwards. The aircraft’s damage was in line with the plug moving upwards and outwards, ultimately leading to its separation. The NTSB had previously stated that all 12 stop fittings had become disconnected on this component.
In a written statement, Mr. Calhoun acknowledged the report and stated that regardless of the outcome, Boeing is responsible for the incident. He emphasized that such a situation should not occur on any of their planes and that they must strive to improve for the sake of their customers and their passengers.
The organization announced that it is enacting a thorough strategy to enhance quality and instill confidence in our stakeholders.
The production of 737 Max airplanes has been stopped by the FAA. They have also launched an investigation into the company’s manufacturing processes and assembly lines.
The FAA Administrator, Mike Whitaker, stated that no requests from Boeing for increased production or new production lines for the 737 Max will be accepted until the quality control problems found during this investigation have been resolved.
What occurred on the ship?
At a press conference after the event, Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB chair, stated that the airplane’s auto depressurization light illuminated shortly after taking off on its route to Ontario, California.
The doorplug malfunctioned, causing a sudden drop in pressure. This caused the cockpit door to unexpectedly fly open, surprising the two captains on the aircraft. According to Ms Homendy, the incident caused significant damage to the paneling, trim, and windows.
At a certain moment, the oxygen masks were released on the aircraft. There were four minors and four flight attendants on board who quickly checked on their well-being. Passengers expressed fear for their safety and contacted their loved ones.
The aircraft subsequently flew back to Portland International Airport.
The safety issues of the Boeing 737 Max series throughout its history.
Boeing’s planes have faced scrutiny for their quality before the January incident. In October 2018, a malfunctioning sensor on a Max 8 jet triggered an anti-stall system, leading to a fatal crash near Jakarta, Indonesia. Tragically, all 189 passengers on board lost their lives.
In the subsequent year, a Max 8 aircraft serving Ethiopian Airlines and en route to Nairobi tragically crashed in a field shortly after takeoff. Sadly, all 157 individuals aboard perished in the accident.
Two days after the incident involving Alaska Airlines, the US Department of Justice reached a settlement with Boeing regarding the accidents and the Max series. The company had previously faced one charge of conspiracy.
The total amount of the settlement was $2.5 billion. This money will be divided into payments for Boeing customers, a fund for victims of the crash, and a criminal fine.
Towards the end of the previous month, Boeing received attention once again due to worries about safety. This was prompted by an engine failure on one of its planes and the nose wheel of another Boeing aircraft detaching while on the runway.
Boeing representatives announced on Sunday that Spirit Aerosystems had made incorrect drillings in approximately 50 of their 737 Max aircraft.
One of our team members discovered a problem that does not meet the standards set by engineers,” said Joe Buccino, spokesperson for Spirit AeroSystems, to CNN. “As soon as we were made aware, we took immediate steps to find and apply the necessary solutions for repair. We are keeping Boeing informed about the situation.”
What is the response of airlines?
Both United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have hinted at possibly switching to Airbus for their future aircraft orders. In a January interview with CNBC, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby expressed his disappointment with the ongoing “manufacturing challenges” at Boeing.
He stated, “This is not novel. I am let down by that.” When inquired about whether he is considering Airbus, the main competitor of Boeing, he replied, “I will observe and decide. Clearly, there is only one other producer that is truly a possibility for us.”
In an interview with NBC News, CEO of Alaska Airlines, Ben Minicucci, stated that the company’s decision regarding fleet mix will prioritize the long-term success of Alaska. He also confirmed that Hawaiian Airlines, which is currently being acquired by Alaska, utilizes Airbus aircraft.
What occurred to the individuals aboard Flight 1282?
Alaska Airlines paid the 171 passengers on the 5 January flight $1,500 as “an immediate gesture of care” and refunded them for their flights. Additionally, the company provided mental health resources.
Several travelers, on the other hand, decided to take action and filed a lawsuit against Boeing.
Last month, seven plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in King County’s Superior Court in Washington, where part of the emergency took place. They claimed that those on board experienced bleeding ears, bruises, and headaches.
Attorney Daniel Laurence, who is representing the plaintiffs, stated that their clients have suffered economic, physical, and ongoing emotional consequences as a result of this nightmare. These effects have understandably had a profound impact on them.