Boeing CEO Admits ‘Mistake’ After Alaska Airlines Midair Blowout

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CEO Dave Calhoun said Boeing will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to figure out why the door plug fell off during the flight.

Boeing’s president and chief executive has acknowledged the planemaker’s “mistake” after the door plug of an Alaska Airlines-operated flight blew off last week shortly after take off.

CEO Dave Calhoun told employees during a meeting on Jan. 9 that the company will work with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident and will remain transparent with the agency throughout the probe.

“We’re going to approach this number one acknowledging our mistake,” Mr. Calhoun said in the meeting, a Boeing spokesperson confirmed to CBS News.

“We’re going to approach it with 100 percent and complete transparency every step of the way. We are going to work with the NTSB who is investigating the accident itself to find out what the cause is. We have a long experience with this group. They’re as good as it gets,” he added.

Mr. Calhoun’s comments came shortly after the door plug fell off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 as it was en route to California from Portland International Airport in Oregon on Jan. 5, prompting an emergency landing back in Portland.

The door plug—a two-foot-by-four-foot (61-centimeter-by-122-centimeter) panel covering an unused emergency door on the jetliner—blew out on the Boeing 737 Max 9, at around 5:11 p.m. local time, leaving a gaping hole in the plane while 171 passengers and six crew members were on board.

Aircraft Grounded

The incident occurred roughly six minutes into the flight when the aircraft reached an altitude of about 16,000 feet, according to the NTSB.

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None of the individuals onboard were seriously hurt.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has since grounded all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft worldwide while it conducts safety inspections.

In an update on Jan. 9, the transportation agency said that “every Boeing 737-9 Max with a plug door will remain grounded until the FAA finds each can safely return to operation.”

To begin the safety inspection operation, Boeing must first “provide instructions to operators for inspections and maintenance,” the agency said.

“Boeing offered an initial version of instructions yesterday which they are now revising because of feedback received in response,” the FAA said. “Upon receiving the revised version of instructions from Boeing the FAA will conduct a thorough review.”

The FAA added that the “safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service.”

Aircraft Safety a Priority

In a separate update on Jan. 8, the FAA noted that operations would conduct “enhanced inspections which include both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners.”

“Operators must also complete corrective action requirements based on findings from the inspections prior to bringing any aircraft back into service,” the agency added.

The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 7, 2024. (NTSB/Handout via Reuters)
The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 7, 2024. (NTSB/Handout via Reuters)
Alaska Airlines has also confirmed the grounding of its 737-9 MAX fleet, adding that the move will impact hundreds of flights.

The airliner said on Jan. 8 that it anticipates the aircraft inspections will be completed in the next few days.

“The safety of these aircraft is our priority and we will take the time and steps necessary to ensure their airworthiness, in close partnership with the FAA,” the airliner said.

Mr. Calhoun told Boeing employees during Jan. 9’s meeting that Alaska Airlines’ ability to quickly ground its fleet of Max 9s with door plugs “prevented, potentially, another accident.”

On Jan. 8, the NTSB said it had found the dislodged door plug of the Alaska Airlines plane near Portland in the backyard of a schoolteacher identified only as Bob.

The agency added that the door plug was currently being examined by NTSB investigators and would be sent to a lab in Washington, D.C., for further examination.

The door plug from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 8, 2024.  (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)
The door plug from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 8, 2024.  (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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