US safety board confirms part of panel that blew off Boeing plane in mid-air was made in M'sia

The door plug on the plane was produced by a Spirit facility in Malaysia.

Amber Tay | January 22, 2024, 04:04 PM



Jennifer Homendy, chair of the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said investigations are underway after a cabin panel on a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane blew off in midair earlier this month, as reported by Reuters.

Speaking to reporters after a briefing to House of Representative lawmakers investigating the Alaska Airlines incident on Jan. 18, 2024, Homendy confirmed that the door plug on the airplane's cabin panel was made in Malaysia.

What happened

The incident happened during Alaska Airlines flight 1282's route from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California, on Jan. 5, 2024, (Jan. 5, 2024, for SGT) where the plane's cabin panel blew off midair less than 20 minutes into its flight.

The plane had to return for an emergency landing. Apart from a few passengers who required medical attention, everyone onboard was reported by Alaska Airlines to be medically cleared.

Inspection plans

Homendy said Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told her "they want to rectify" errors made in the past, but her "focus is less on the executive team" and more of what happened to the aircraft.

She added that the two companies responsible for making and installing the door plug on the MAX 9, Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, have been "very cooperative."

Door plug produced by facility in Malaysia

On Jan. 17, 2024, Homendy had said the door plug on the plane was produced by a Spirit facility in Malaysia.

However, investigations can not yet establish whether four bolts were installed on the door plug to prevent it from vertical movement.

Homendy also said it is too early to say whether the root cause was missing or wrongly installed bolts, and they will also be looking at the seal and structural flexing of the aircraft.

NTSB will be conducting destructive testing of the door plug or testing to the exact point of failure next week.

Aspects such as the shipment transfer of the door plug from Malaysia to Wichita, Kansas, and then onto the fuselage, as well as the plane maker's “quality assurance” work, will also be inspected by NTSB.

The United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said inspections of an initial group of 40 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets has been completed, though it would “thoroughly review the data” and create a corrective action review board on Jan. 17, 2024.

The planes can be approved to resume flights after reviews have been completed, though no deadline has been set for the decision.

Thousands of flights cancelled in January

Approximately 20 per cent of Boeing shares's values have been lost since the beginning of this year.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, both which used Boeing aircrafts, have had to cancelled thousands of flights in January as the aircrafts underwent inspections.

Alaska Airlines announced on Jan. 18, 2024, that they will extend the cancellation of 737 MAX 9 flights through Sunday while the Federal Aviation Administration continues to review inspection data from an initial group of 40 planes.

Top image via OPB