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Boeing 747-9 mid-air malfunction: Admits inability to locate records for door panel maintenance

by Staff
NEW DELHI: In a letter addressed to Congress, Boeing has admitted the inability to locate records for maintenance performed on a door panel that malfunctioned during an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon two months ago. “We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation,” Ziad Ojakli, Boeing executive vice president and chief government lobbyist, wrote to Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday.

Alaska Airlines suspended operations of its entire Boeing 737-9 fleet on January 5, following an alarming incident where a window and part of the fuselage on one of their planes blew out midair, necessitating an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

Following the incident Alaska Airline CEO Ben Minicucci announced grounding of the airline’s Boeing 737-9 fleet and said “we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft.”

The company said its “working hypothesis” suggests that the records regarding the removal and reinstallation of the panel on the 737 MAX final assembly line in Renton, Washington, were potentially never generated, despite Boeing’s systems mandating it.

The letter, initially reported by The Seattle Times, came after a heated Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, during which Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board clashed over the extent of the company’s cooperation with investigators.

During the hearing, the chair of the safety board, Jennifer Homendy, said that Boeing had consistently declined to disclose the identities of employees responsible for door panel work on Boeing 737s for two months. Additionally, Boeing failed to furnish documentation pertaining to a repair task involving the removal and reinstallation of the door panel.

“It’s absurd that two months later we don’t have that,” Homendy said. “Without that information, that raises concerns about quality assurance, quality management, safety management systems” at Boeing.

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Senator Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, issued a demand for Boeing to respond within 48 hours following the Senate hearing.

Shortly after the hearing, Boeing said that it had provided the NTSB with the names of all employees involved in 737 door work, some of which had been previously shared with investigators.

In its letter, Boeing reiterated its inability to locate the documentation and said that it had informed the safety board of this prior to the hearing. It claimed that until then, it had not been aware of any complaints regarding collaboration issues.

Since the January 5 incident involving an Alaska Airlines Max 9, where a panel covering an extra emergency door blew off, Boeing has faced heightened scrutiny. Fortunately, pilots managed to safely land the aircraft without any injuries.

In a preliminary report released last month, the NTSB revealed that four bolts crucial for securing the door panel were missing after it had been removed for repairs to nearby damaged rivets in September. Despite this, the NTSB remains unaware of who performed the removal and replacement of the door panel.

The FAA recently granted Boeing a 90-day period to address quality-control concerns highlighted by the agency and an industry-government panel. This decision follows findings of ongoing safety culture issues at Boeing, despite enhancements implemented after the crashes of two Max 8 jets in 2018 and 2019, resulting in the loss of 346 lives.

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