NTSB conducting new interviews with Boeing on 737 MAX 9 door plug probe

By Thomson Reuters Apr 10, 2024 | 3:36 PM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting a new round of interviews with Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration personnel this week in its probe into the January Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 in-flight emergency.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy on Wednesday said investigators were back at the 737 plant in Renton, Washington, this week for more interviews.

“We are looking at other instances where a door plug was opened and closed to make sure that those records are available,” Homendy said at a U.S. Senate hearing, saying investigators want to make sure those instances were documented.

Last month, Boeing said it believed required documents detailing the removal of the door plug in the Alaska Airlines plane involved in the emergency were never created.

The door plug panel blew off the Alaska Airlines flight not long after taking off from Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 5.

Homendy said investigators are also looking at what more could be done and at the planemaker’s safety culture. She said the NTSB could conduct a safety culture survey at Boeing.

Following the incident, the FAA grounded the MAX 9 for several weeks, barred Boeing from increasing MAX production, and ordered the company to address systemic quality-control issues within 90 days after an audit found fault with the company’s manufacturing processes.

Homendy said last month investigators did not know who worked on the Alaska Boeing 737 MAX 9.

The NTSB said previously that four key bolts were missing from the door plug that blew out.

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the emergency.

Homendy in March criticized what she called Boeing’s lack of cooperation and failure to disclose some documents, including on the door plug opening and closing, as well as the names of 25 workers on the door crew in Renton. After Homendy’s comments, Boeing provided the 25 names, and the planemaker said it was cooperating.

The NTSB plans to hold a public investigative hearing into the Alaska Airlines incident on Aug. 6-7.

Homendy said the hearing would include testimony from employees at Boeing and fuselage manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems and others like Alaska Airlines.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)