U.S. aviation investigators were on the ground in Oregon on Sunday trying to figure out what caused a door panel on a new Boeing passenger jet to blow off just minutes after takeoff, leaving the pilots with a hole. Was forced to make an emergency landing. “Refrigerator on the side of the plane”.
The U.S. jet maker was facing renewed scrutiny after regulators temporarily grounded the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane after an Alaska Airlines flight with 171 passengers and six passengers on board on Friday took off from Portland, Oregon, carrying about 16,000 passengers. Feet (4,877 m) above, a portion of the exit door was separated. Crew on board. The weeks-old aircraft was modified, having fewer seats and requiring fewer emergency exits.
But investigators — who asked for the public’s help in locating the door of an Alaska Airlines plane that disappeared Sunday — said initial findings do not indicate widespread foul play on the Boeing Max 9 plane.
“We’ll look at the pressurization system, we’ll look at the doors, the hinges,” Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said at a news conference. “Do we suspect there is an overall problem with the design of this aircraft based on previous accidents involving the Boeing Max? At this time, no.”
On Sunday, thousands of passengers, mostly in the US, faced flight cancellations, which are expected to continue into next week as airlines called in inspectors to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) order.
No one was seriously injured during Friday’s emergency landing. Still, the close call has raised new safety concerns about Boeing planes, five years after two deadly crashes that killed 346 people and tarnished the U.S. company’s reputation.
These fatal accidents occurred within a few months of each other in 2018 and 2019. These included Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
All Max aircraft were then grounded globally for nearly two years while company engineers worked to identify the problem – which turned out to be caused by a hardware failure and poorly designed software, which Due to this the planes overtook the pilots and fell out of the sky.
In December, Boeing asked airlines to inspect its 737 Max jets for possible loose bolts in the rudder control system.
Friday’s episode in Portland involved a different model. The 737 Max 9 is now Boeing’s largest single-aisle aircraft with seating for up to 220. But most airlines have opted for fewer seats, which means the jet’s optional spare door is plugged — or covered.
It was a section of the “extra” door covered in the fuselage – the main part of the aircraft that contains the cabin, cockpit and cargo compartment – that flew into the air.
Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas built the fuselage. But Boeing completed the complex, two-stage installation process at its plant just outside Seattle, Washington.
According to sources cited by Reuters, investigators are expected to probe both factories for possible flaws in design, manufacturing and installation. “The perception is that it was set up incorrectly or rigged,” a source reportedly said. Neither Boeing nor Spirit have commented.
Door plugs have been used throughout the industry for years to customize aircraft and provide flexible seating.
According to Jeff Guzzetti, a former NTSB and FAA official, the altitude at which the door panel cracked indicated a problem with pressurization. “This happened at a lower altitude than I expected, which tells me the door was not doing its job of maintaining pressure inside the fuselage,” Guzzetti told NBC’s Today show.
On Friday, passengers were terrified by the near miss. Things could not have been worse as the explosion occurred before the plane reached altitude, and the passengers were still wearing their lap belts.
“Think what happens when you’re on a cruise. Everyone is up and walking, people are not wearing seat belts,” Homendy said. “Our end could have been even more tragic.”
No one was sitting in the window seat right next to the covered exit. But a teenage boy and his mother were in the middle and aisle seats. Elizabeth Le, a passenger, told NBC, “The son’s shirt was completely blown off and his body was completely red, I’m assuming from wind irritation.”
Le, 20, said he heard “an extremely loud noise”, looked up and saw a large hole on the plane’s wall a few rows away. Another passenger said the gap was “as wide as a refrigerator”.
According to aviation data provider Cirium, about 215 Boeing Max 9 airplanes are operating globally. Two US airlines – United and Alaska – have 70% of the jets in service. Other operators include Panama’s Copa Airlines, Aeromexico, Turkish Airlines, flydubai and Icelandair.
The FAA has grounded and ordered inspections of only 737 Max 9 planes, which have been modified for reduced seating capacity and therefore include a covered cabin exit door.
In a statement Friday, Boeing said safety was its top priority, and its technical team was supporting the NTSB investigation. It added: “We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspection of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplanes.”
More than 4,900 people have died in major incidents involving the Boeing 737 family of planes since their launch in the late 1960s, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an unofficial database compiled from government sources.