FAA to probe Boeing over quality control after latest MAX accident

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently launched a formal investigation into Boeing’s quality control processes. This comes after an incident last week involving an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 aircraft departing from Portland, Oregon. The left door plug on the aircraft tore free, causing a rapid depressurization of the cabin. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured as the seats next to the plug happened to be empty.

Following the incident, the FAA ordered all 737 MAX 9s with the window plug to be grounded for inspection. Both Alaska and United Airlines, the other MAX 9 operator in the U.S., found some aircraft with installation defects, including loose bolts. The FAA stated that this incident should have never happened and emphasized that Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with high safety standards.

In a letter to Boeing, FAA officials explained that the investigation is focused on Boeing’s compliance with federal regulations that require aircraft manufacturers to ensure that every plane they build conforms to its approved design and is in a condition for safe operation. The NTSB is also investigating the incident to determine why the door plug came off and whether the safety bolts holding it in place were damaged, missing, or installed correctly.

The 737 MAX 9 has a spot for an extra emergency exit, which is required on models of the aircraft with certain higher-density seating configurations. However, airlines with fewer seats, such as United and Alaska, can choose to install a “plug” in its place. The plug is installed by Spirit AeroSystems, the manufacturer of the fuselage for Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, in Witchita, Kansas. The completed bodies are then shipped to Boeing’s Renton, Washington, factory for final assembly. The NTSB mentioned that the plugs are secured by just four bolts and other hardware.

Alaska Airlines operates 65 of the MAX 9 aircraft, while United has 79 of them. The FAA’s inspection order affects around 171 aircraft, and a total of 215 have been delivered to airlines globally. These findings are reminiscent of the nearly two-year global grounding of the 737 MAX type that began in April 2019 after two fatal crashes involving the aircraft.

Boeing has not yet responded to the FAA’s request for comment on the investigation.

In conclusion, the FAA’s formal investigation into Boeing’s quality control processes has been prompted by the recent incident involving an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 aircraft. The investigation will focus on Boeing’s compliance with safety regulations and its responsibility to ensure that every plane it builds is in a condition for safe operation. The NTSB is also investigating the incident to determine the cause of the door plug detachment. These findings raise concerns about the safety and manufacturing practices of the 737 MAX aircraft, which has already faced significant scrutiny following previous fatal crashes.

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