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FAA Scolds Boeing Over Door Plug Decompression Incident

Agency says the emergency situation "should have never happened."

The FAA is investigating an incident in which an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 lost a door plug in flight. (Photo: NTSB)

“This incident should have never happened, and it cannot happen again.”

Those words come from a statement from the FAA, which announced Thursday that it has formally notified Boeing that it is conducting “an investigation to determine if [the company] failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.”

The investigation is a result of an incident on January 5 when an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 (737-9) lost a door plug in mid-flight, resulting in a rapid decompression of the aircraft and an emergency landing.

The airline immediately grounded its fleet of 737 Max 9s. Within hours the FAA grounded the model countrywide. This has resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations and delays for United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, which utilize the design.

The FAA stated that the aircraft will not return to the skies until they have been inspected and found to be safe, noting “the safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service.”The FAA added: “Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they’re legally accountable to meet.”

In a letter sent to Boeing on Wednesday, the agency said that it had received notification of “additional discrepancies on other Boeing 737-9 airplanes” and noted these circumstances “indicate that Boeing may have failed to ensure its completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in accordance with quality system inspection and test procedures.”

The letter noted Boeing has 10 business days to respond to the FAA.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on FlyingMag.com

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  • Meg Godlewski

    Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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