Breaking: NTSB preliminary report says 737-9 MAX door plug bolts appear to have been missing


Seatbelts were fastened, and the exit doors were closed and armed. But the door plug bolts on the mid-fuselage may not have been in the holes that were drilled for them. Inspectors found no evidence that the threads had ever been used.

The initial report on the Jan. 5, 2024 door plug failure on an Alaska Airlines flight says the door plug made a loud bang when it separated from Flight 1282, and crew in the cockpit reported their ears popped.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board also says that the bolts that were to hold that door plug on the aircraft appear to have never been in place before flight. The aircraft had just come off the factory floor in October.

“Overall, the observed damage patterns and absence of contact damage or deformation around holes associated with the vertical movement arrestor bolts and upper guide track bolts in the upper guide fittings, hinge fittings, and recovered aft lower hinge guide fitting indicate that the four bolts that prevent upward movement of the MED plug were missing before the MED [mid exit door] plug moved upward off the stop pads,” the report says of investigators’ inspection of the door plug, which was found in a residential garden southwest of Portland not long after it fell from the jet that had been heading to Ontario, Calif. from Portland..

The 19-page report was issued a month and a day after the Jan. 5 mid-air incident that happened on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, after which all Boeing 737-9 MAX jets were grounded for inspection and bolt-tightening. As of Tuesday, more than 90% of those jets are back in the air.

“The captain said that, while climbing through about 16,000 ft, there was a loud bang,” the report says. “The flight crew said their ears popped, and the captain said his head was pushed into the heads-up display (HUD) and his headset was pushed up, nearly falling off his head. The FO [first officer] said her headset was completely removed due to the rapid outflow of air from the flight deck.”

In a House committee today in Washington, D.C., Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Mike Whitaker said his agency is closely scrutinizing Boeing after the most recent incident. The FAA will have more boots on the ground monitoring production and manufacturing activities, he said.

Also, Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the fuselage for Boeing and which has taken responsibility for the blowout, made a decision to withhold financial guidance to investors and potential investors on its fiscal performance for this year until it finds its path, since the 727 MAX production has come to a pause at Boeing. Spirit depends almost exclusively on Boeing for its business model.

The Federal Aviation Administration is engaged in a “nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip inspection” of the 737 MAX processes at the Renton, Washington factory, and at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas.

Shares of Boeing Co. are down 20% since Jan. 6.


  1. I believe the bolts were removed during a maintenance procedure by Alaska Airlines. The airplane had 143 cycles before the door plug left the aircraft. It will probably eventually come out that it was removed and reinstalled at some point in the weeks prior to the event, we will see. I find it hard to believe the airplane had 143 takeoffs and landings before the door plug succumbed to the 8 PSI pressure that it is has endured 143 times going through 16000 feet on it’s way to altitude.

    • Sorry Robert, but if you had any mechanical sense, you can easily tell if something had been threaded. This is a quote from the article.

      “Inspectors found no evidence that the threads had ever been used….”

      Fire all Union Employees!

  2. You got it ! They knew of a pressurization issue with that aircraft . I’ve maintained it was a AkAir maintenance issue at that point . Either improperly inspected or negligence .

    • What else is going unnoticed, unchecked, overlooked, improperly inspected and/or, willful – intentional negligence? Seems like pre-flight inspections, as well as, “known” pressure anomalies would cause a level of concern and curiosity, that competent – responsible individuals would want answers so as to minimize risks to the Aircraft, Passengers, and Crew. As this issue develops, it appears that AK Air’s main focus was on capitulation to all of this DEI nonsense, which will lead many to question the safety culture, and ultimately diminishing confidence in investors, crew, and passengers.

    • Nowadays, I’m guessing you can get a cheaper rate for the seats next to these door plugs and/or exit doors?!?!? Maybe(???), AK Air will even offer free ice cold adult beverages too?

    • It’s not the overwing exit doors in the exit rows. The plug is further aft on the right side fuselage about 2 thirds the way down the tube. Some airplanes actually have a MED installed because they are configured to carry more passengers. Regulations require an additional door for emergency egress.

  3. The illusion of safety continues to abound in aviation. Cost cutting is still the highest priority for the airlines. Maintenance is the easiest way to cut costs while the rest of the industry makes good money. Until this changes, we can expect more of the same.

    • ALK stock still has 55% upside potential and looks to be poised for a nice swing play … just sayin’ why not profit on a potential opportunity (!!!)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.