United Airlines finds loose bolts on some 737 MAX 9 door plugs

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Door panel from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on the lawn of a home southwest of Portland. Photo credit: NTSB.

United Airlines found loose bolts on door plugs of several Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, while the planes were being inspected after all of the aircraft were grounded by the FAA. The inspections came after a panel flew out of the fuselage of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Friday night as the plane left Portland for Ontario, Calif.

A door plug is a panel that fills a spot where an emergency exit can be installed. All of the MAX 9 planes with this configuration are still grounded.

United owns 79 MAX-9 aircraft, more than any other airlines. United has canceled 200 MAX 9 flights since the grounding of the planes and expects significant cancelations on Tuesday.

“Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug — for example, bolts that needed additional tightening. These findings will be remedied by our Tech Ops team to safely return the aircraft to service,” United said in a statement.

Passengers aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 were mostly uninjured, although the depressurization of the cabin was strong enough that the cockpit door was whipped open, and seat parts were torn from the plane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. There were no passengers in the two seats next to the missing panel.

There may have been warning signs: According to the NTSB, 37 days after the brand new jet was placed into service, a pressurization “fail light” lit up in the cockpit. The light went on Jan. 3 and again Jan. 4, and the flight crew flipped the switch to the system’s backup and reported it to maintenance. It was tested by maintenance and reset, said NTSB Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, who described the procedure as “very normal.”

20 COMMENTS

  1. A few ‘loose’ Nuts, Bolts, Rivets, Crazy Co-Pilots is most likely acceptable today.
    But (Dear God!), let’s not mis-gender and/or use the wrong pronouns!!!

  2. Could be ignorance since workers today are lacking God and poor education. Could be terrorism since there are Americans who are anti USA. Could be just faulty manufacturing and lower standards of who is putting together machinery.

    I think we will be seeing a lot more terrorism on US land. Probably be better more people stay in their home states and get the local work that needs to be done here for prolonging the US.

  3. Makes me want to go flying.
    As important and expensive these aircraft are you would think you would come out of the factory well tested and checked out. Boeing dropped the ball on this one as well as the software snafu these planes are a menace.

  4. While I can’t top the first 2 comments above, I will point out that it looks like some Portland resident won the Alaska/Boeing door prize.

  5. A piece of an Alaska Airlines jet falls off. Whatever. It’s not important. What is important is CEO Manicucci lowered the pilot and mechanics competency bar so the company could proudly claim being full-on DEI and woke.

  6. That’s not good. The standards required to get and maintain an A&P license are rigorous. Makes me wonder if there is an issue with the instructions because all parts and maintenance on aircraft is heavily scrutinized for obvious reasons. Having loose bolts on a commercial aircraft is not the norm.

  7. “The (Alaska Airlines) crisis was caused by a torn-off door plug that was subsequently found in a teacher’s backyard in Portland on Sunday, but no one knows what prompted the plug to break in the first place.

    The aircraft was not being used for flights to Hawaii because a warning light already indicated there were pressurization problems on three different trips before the one where the door panel blew off. Alaska Airlines had apparently restricted longer flights over water so it “could return very quickly to an airport” if the warning light went off, National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said.
    .
    Homendy tried to say there’s no known connection between the pressurization light and the near-devastating disaster, which honestly doesn’t make (the writer) feel any better.
    .
    Passengers aboard this flight seemingly had no idea the aircraft already had issues. People in positions of power were comfortable letting almost 200 people, including their own employees, take off in this aircraft, knowing it wasn’t working properly — even if just in a small way.

    Alaska Airlines did not immediately return emails from the Daily Caller asking why the aircraft was allowed to take off with a known problem with the pressurization, and who allowed this to happen with 170 souls aboard.”
    .
    (dailycaller.com/2024/01/08/alaska-airlines-boeing-737-max-door-plug-window-panel-video-aftermath-reason-it-happened/)
    .
    Now would be a good time for Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO, to explain exactly what the hell is going on and why, as CEO, he should not be held to account.

  8. Let’s also hear from Boeing. Someone, specifically, was responsible for installing those door plugs and ensuring each bolt was tightened to the specified torque. The aircraft assembly records should show exactly what date and time that work was done, and who signed off on it. Someone else was responsible for inspecting this work and signing off on it. It’s also important to make sure the appropriate torques and torqueing procedures were originally specified.

    Considering the risks involved, these sort of failures at multiple levels – and apparently on multiple aircraft – suggest Boeing has a larger problem with its hiring, training, and supervision at all levels.

  9. Note to Alaska Airline passengers: Bring a socket wrench set and some Locktite when you fly. Tighten the door panel hinge bolts before takeoff. If the Alaska Airlines DEI/woke maintenance staff can’t do this … it’s up to you.

  10. When are companies going to worry about hiring qualified people instead of DEI. AK Air was blessed that no one died or was hurt more than that young man. I can only imgaine how horrified everyone was on that plane especially the 7 year old boy and his mother sitting on that row.

    AK Air and Boeing are both is in Seattle, they need to be more concerned about saftely than pronouns or who wears a skirt.

  11. Fact; all aircraft major components are required to be signed off by a licensed mechanic and inspection by a licensed inspection mechanic after. The doors that were improperly secured and inspected obviously at some point were illegally opened and closed for some maintenance action and maybe not even documented. This type of incident can only result in a lot of finger-pointing but shouldn’t be blamed on design or manufacture. Human error and relaxed maintenance practices is definitely at fault. Fasten your belts and realize that you will not be able to hold on to your kids in a high pressure differential situation at much higher altitudes. You will be lucky to retain your eyeballs.

  12. I suggest as a matter of courtesy that all airlines flights involving the Boeing 737 Max, prior to boarding passengers be given a prayer book. Failure to accept the prayer book would result in the flier being refused boarding privileges and cancellation of his/her ticket, the cost of which will be cheerfully refunded.

  13. Back when I worked at Boeing everyone had an identification stamp. When you machined a part or inspected a part or performed an assembly process you stamped the work order with your stamp. Pretty sure they know who installed that door plug and who their supervisor was. Boeing has always been a DEI employer, I saw it with hiring and layoffs.

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