Crucial Bolts On Alaska Airlines 737-9 Were Missing

Daniel Fowkes
07 Feb 2024
· Aircraft 
The NTSB has released its preliminary report into the Alaska Airlines 737-9 incident that's revealed key bolts were likely missing.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said that following its preliminary report, the door that blew off an Alaska Airlines 737-9 jet appeared to be missing the four key bolts that should’ve been installed.

Spirit AeroSystems is the supplier that produces the plug. It is then sent towards the assembly plant, specifically in Renton, where it was installed on this 737-9 that experienced the door blowout.

Interestingly, the NTSB says in its preliminary findings that the panel was removed at the Renton factory and reinstalled. However, the bolts essential to holding the door in place were seemingly not reinstalled.

Confirmation Of Invevitible

Immediately following the incident, Boeing acknowledged responsibility, apologised, and said it wasn’t good enough. However, customers’ frustrations, alongside those of the general public, have grown.

Since the incident, the NTSB has been investigating and attempting to determine whether the bolts were missing or improperly tightened to cause the blowout.

The preliminary report now indicates the likelihood of the bolts not being installed is very high. This provides greater insight into what happened and adds to the continued troubles impacting the American plane maker.

In-flight structural failure, Alaska Airlines flight 1282

Following the door blow incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency airworthiness directive that led to the grounding of 171 737-9 jets affected with door plugs at risk of experiencing a similar fate.

These Boeing 737-9s have primarily been cleared to return to service once airline technicians inspect the planes by the FAA and Boeing’s guidance. However, while the plane re-entering the skies is a step in the right direction for the plane maker, much more looms.

A Larger Lapse In Quality

While the NTSB has highlighted a lack of reinstalled bolts to help hold the door in place, the concern stretches far beyond what happened on the Alaska Airlines aircraft.

Such a critical component not being installed falls back onto Boeing’s continued lapses in quality control that have seen headlines take centre stage across recent years.

From the public’s perspective, Boeing had been rebuilding its reputation and quality following the late 2010 MAX incidents. However, these revelations see Boeing take several steps back and pose questions about how much has changed internally.

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