Key bolts missing from Alaska Airlines plane
February 7, 2024 - A door that blew away from an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet shortly after take-off may not have been properly secured, a new report finds.
Four bolts that acted as a fail-safe mechanism to hold the door panel in place weren’t installed on the jet, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The incident has become the biggest crisis for Boeing since its entire fleet of MAX jets was grounded worldwide in 2019 following two fatal crashes. MAX 9 planes with the same door configuration as the Alaska jet were grounded for weeks until they could be inspected, and regulators are poring over Boeing’s manufacturing processes and ratcheting up pressure on the company’s management.
The incident occurred when a panel that seals an unused door opening on the left side of the Alaska Airlines jet blew open shortly after take off from Portland, causing it to violently lose pressure and subjecting passengers and flight crew to high winds and noise as it returned for an emergency landing. No serious injuries were reported.
The panel, known as a door plug, is held in place by 12 braces that withstand the massive pressure differential between the cabin and the thin air at altitude. A separate set of four bolts are designed lock it in place. The panel opens by sliding upward and the bolts, which include pins to prevent them from inadvertently loosening, prevent that movement, Bloomberg said.