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DoJ opens criminal investigation into 737 MAX blowout, Alaska ‘not the target’  

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has opened a criminal investigation into the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout that occurred on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 in January 2024 shortly after leaving Portland International Airport (PDX). 

According to the Wall Street Journal, news of the development was supported by documents and people familiar with the situation.  

Furthermore, the newspaper said that federal investigators have already begun contacting passengers, pilots and cabin crew members that were on the Alaska Airlines flight on January 5, 2024. 

Alaska Airlines appeared to confirm the criminal investigation commencing in a statement provided to the Associated Press.  

“In an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation,” a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines said on March 10, 2024.  

The criminal investigation will aid the DoJ’s review into whether the Alaska Airlines incident violated its 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with Boeing following the 737 MAX fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.   

Under the agreement, Boeing was forced to pay a $2.5 billion settlement and agree to abide by several conditions in the future. 

Separately US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Fox News Sunday that the Federal Aviation Administration will “rigorously” assess Boeing following the door plug incident.  

To ensure airline safety, “that means an enormous amount of rigor in dealing with Boeing, in dealing with any regulatory issue. And that’s exactly what the FAA is doing,” Buttigieg said. 

On March 7, 2024, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy informed lawmakers at the US Senate Commerce Committee, that documentation which recorded the removal and reinstallation of the door plug during repair work to the 737-9 at the Boeing factory on September 19, 2023, was not provided. 

Following the hearing Boeing released a statement indicating that key documents the NTSB asked for may not exist.    

“With respect to documentation, if the door plug removal was undocumented there would be no documentation to share. We will continue to cooperate fully and transparently with the NTSB’s investigation,” Boeing said in a statement following the hearing.    

In February 2024, the NTSB published a preliminary report into the Alaska Airlines incident that confirmed that four key bolts designed to hold the door plug in place were missing.     

The preliminary NTSB report with photographic proof of missing bolts….has so much interest its crashed the NTSB website. pic.twitter.com/dAgUhNeoNy

— Paul Breed (@unrocket) February 6, 2024

The four bolts were removed, and the door plug taken out at the Boeing factory on September 19, 2023, to allow repair work to be carried out by Spirit AeroSystems staff on five rivets inside the 737-9.   

A photo of the door plug reinstalled by Boeing employees later that day showed that there were no bolts present in three of the visible locations, while the fourth was covered with insulation.    

The post DoJ opens criminal investigation into 737 MAX blowout, Alaska ‘not the target’   appeared first on AeroTime.

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