Boeing CEO unable to tell NTSB exactly who reinstalled door plug on Alaska 737-9 - Istanbul Airport Meet and Assist

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jeniffer Homendy has said in a letter to the United States Senate Commerce Committee that she has still been unable to ascertain who “performed the work to open, reinstall, and close the door plug” on the Alaska Airline Boeing 737 MAX 9 that suffered a door plug blowout on January 5, 2024.

On March 7, 2024, Homendy appeared in front of the committee and said 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, had not been provided by the planemaker.

Homendy also said attempts to take the names of 25 Boeing employees who may have worked on the door plug removal and reinstallation had so far been fruitless.

At the hearing senators told Boeing to provide the NTSB with the information it needs and Homendy was instructed to advise the committee in writing of the outcome.

In a letter addressed to Senator Maria Cantwell, the chair of the committee, on March 13, 2024, Homendy stated that Boeing had advised her that it was “unable to find the records documenting” the work carried out on the door plug and that security camera footage that could help obtain this information had been overwritten.

“The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward,” Homendy wrote.

The names of the 25 staff members who reported to the door crew manager in September 2023, were subsequently provided by Boeing following the Senate Committee. However, the identity of those that specifically worked on the door plug was not singled out.

“After NTSB received this list, I called Boeing Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun and asked for the names of the people who performed the work. He stated he was unable to provide that information and maintained that Boeing has no records of the work being performed,” Homendy wrote in her letter.

Moving forward with investigation

Increasingly, concerned that it may be perceived that the NTSB is seeking to find out the names for “punitive purposes”, Homendy wrote in her letter that that she only wished to “speak with them to learn about Boeing’s quality-assurance processes and safety culture”.

“Our only intent is to identify deficiencies and recommend safety improvements so accidents like this never happen again. In fact, our nation’s aviation record is so safe precisely because of our well-established culture of non-punitive reporting,” Homendy wrote.

Accordingly, Homendy advised the committee that she has instructed the NTSB to “utilize our authority to protect the identities of the door crew and other front-line employees who come forward with information relevant to the investigation”.

She added that she did not want the focus on individual names to “negatively impact our investigation and discourage” Boeing employees from coming forward.

“The NTSB investigation, as with all our investigations, seeks to determine the probable cause of this accident and issue safety recommendations to prevent it from reoccurring. Our only goal is to ensure the increased safety of the flying public,” Homendy concluded in her letter.

NTSB plug door Alaska Airlines

Boeing responds after NTSB says 737 door plug documents and staff names withheld

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