An official investigation into Boeing has been launched by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after a plug door separated from an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 shortly after takeoff on January 6, 2024.
The FAA wrote to Boeing on January 10, 2024, stating that its investigation aims to establish whether the planemaker complied with federal regulations and the aviation agency’s “approved quality system” during production.
“This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again. The FAA formally notified Boeing that it is conducting an investigation to determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations,” the FAA declared in a statement.
Under FAA regulations, aircraft manufacturers must ensure that every “completed product or article” presented for airworthiness “conforms to its approved design”.
The FAA asked that any response to its letter from Boeing should contain the “root cause of the encountered condition(s), products/articles affected, service impacts, the extent of any immediate/long-term action taken to correct and preclude its recurrence, and any mitigating circumstances which you believe may be relevant to this case”.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told CNBC on January 10, 2024, that a “quality escape” was at the heart of the 737-9 blowout, indicating that something was not built correctly, or else was missed, had put the plane’s safety in jeopardy.
“What broke down in our gauntlet of inspections? What broke down in the original work that allowed for that escape to happen?” Calhoun said.
At an earlier company town hall meeting, Calhoun acknowledged that a “mistake” had led to the plug door blowout on January 6, 2024.
“We’re going to approach it with 100% complete transparency every step of the way,” Calhoun said.
On January 6, 2024, the FAA grounded 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets due to safety concerns.
Before any of the grounded 737-9 jets can be flown again, Boeing needs to provide a final Multi-Operator Message (MOM) setting out inspection details for the aircraft as approved by the FAA.
On January 9, 2024, the FAA said that an initial MOM provided by Boeing was being revised after feedback from the United States (US) aviation agency.