NTSB warning letter puts Boeing on notice over release of information not disclosed to investigators

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued a stern letter sanctioning the Boeing Co. for sharing information with the media about the Jan. 5 door plug blowout on a Boeing 737-9 MAX — information it had evidently never disclosed to the NTSB.

The National Transportation Safety Board letter said Boeing “blatantly violated” the agency’s investigative procedures and regulations, and had violated a signed agreement to not provide information to the public without the NTSB being in the loop.

“Notwithstanding these requirements, we learned that on June 25, 2024, Ms. Elizabeth Lund, Senior Vice President, Quality, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, gave a long-planned media briefing without the knowledge or consent ofthe NTSB at which she released non-public investigative information and made unsubstantiated speculations about possible causes of the Jan. 5 door—plug blowout, which is directly at issue in the ongoing investigation. We have verified that part of the released information was either inaccurate or unknown to the NTSB while other parts were not previously disclosed to the public. Such a release or withholding of critical information from our investigators are blatant violations of NTSB’s regulations and the party agreement. This disregard of the federal regulations and rules governing NTSB investigations cannot be tolerated,” the NTSB said.

During the incident, an Alaska Airlines jet departing Portland International Airport lost its door plug while over Hillsborough, Ore. and had to return to make an emergency landing in Portland. There were no injuries but many passengers have sued over the trauma.

The agency also scolded Boeing for an additional breach of regulations:

“We are also aware of statements that Boeing Chief Engineer, Howard McKenzie, made on June 18, 2024, concerning the Dutch roll that a Southwest Airlines 737 Max 8 recently experienced. Specifically, Mr. McKenizie stated that the event ‘has nothing to do with design or manufacturing.’ The NTSB is currently investigating that accident and therefore, parties are prohibited from making any comments regarding the cause ofthe event or otherwise conveying investigative information. The NTSB has not made any such determination, and our investigators have not yet ruled out design or manufacturing issues as contributing to this event,” the NTSB wrote.

This is the second warning the NTSB has issued to Boeing this year “regarding its flagrant violation of the NTSB rules. It is crucial that the investigation speaks with one voice — that of the NTSB — to prevent the release of inaccurate, misleading, unconfirmed, and out—of—context investigative information to the media, public, and lawmakers, which is exactly what occurred during Boeing’s media briefing,” the agency said. “In the briefing, Boeing also portrayed the NTSB investigation as a search to locate the individual responsible for the door plug work. This is false and misleads the public regarding the purpose and scope of the NTSB’s purposes. The NTSB is instead focused on the probable cause of the accident, not placing blame on any individual or assessing liability. When incorrect information is released, we must correct the record, leading to confusion among our stakeholders.”

The NTSB says it will be subpoenaing Lund and other witnesses during scheduled August hearings. NTSB has also notified the Justice Department regarding the release of unauthorized investigation information.

The letter was signed by the director of the Office of Aviation Safety.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Screw the Biden NTSB. This used to be a first rate investigative agency. No more. NTSB does not have the right to restrict free speech. A large corporation like Boeing has lots of obligations, to shareholders, airlines, passengers… Boeing must be able to speak freely without the NTSB getting in the way.

    NTSB. A joke. A complete joke. Probably some high level people there who have taken bribes from Airbus to hurt Boeing. Can’t trust a thing the Biden admin says.

  2. So a door fell off, could have happened to any airplane. What’s important is that Boeing is very diverse. DEI, ESG, Pride, they’ve got all bases covered and Pothole Pete approves.

  3. I still have a hard time believing the aircraft could complete 154 pressurization cycles before the door plug came out. There must have been a maintenance procedure that occurred at Alaska Air that would account for the missing bolts.

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