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Boeing says no documents found on 737 MAX 9 key part removal

Published 03/08/2024, 10:06 PM
Updated 03/08/2024, 11:25 PM
© Reuters. File photo: 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,

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Boeing said on Friday it believes required documents detailing the removal of a key part during production of a 737 MAX 9 that failed during a mid-air emergency were never created, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said last month the door plug that flew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 jet mid-flight on Jan. 5 appeared to be missing four key bolts.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) Executive Vice President Ziad Ojakli told U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell in the letter, "We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation" and that the planemaker's working hypothesis was "the documents required by our processes were not created when the door plug was opened."

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy on Wednesday 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 at the 737 factory in Renton, Washington.

"It is absurd that two months later we don't have it," Homendy told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

After Homendy's comments, Boeing provided the 25 names, the company and NTSB said, and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun spoke to Homendy.

In the aftermath of the incident, which caused no injuries, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the MAX 9 for several weeks in January, barred Boeing from increasing the MAX production rate and ordered Boeing to develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality-control issues" within 90 days.

Boeing's letter said, "It appears from our records this list was requested from us for the first time on Saturday, March 2, by email, and the request was discussed by Boeing and the NTSB on Monday."

Homendy said on Wednesday the NTSB had been trying for two months to identify the specific MAX 9 production shift and employees, adding the board had told key lawmakers about its request for employee names during a Feb. 6 meeting.

"The NTSB needs to interview the employees," she said. "The only way we ensure safety is to find out what happened - what was done, what was not done."

NTSB investigators have been at the 737 plant since Sunday conducting interviews.

Before Wednesday's hearing "Boeing was not aware of any complaints or concerns about a lack of collaboration," Ojakli wrote, adding Boeing was "committed to continuing to cooperate fully and transparently with the NTSB’s investigation" and had provided "extensive records and documents."

© Reuters. File photo: 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, Oregon, U.S. January 7, 2024.  NTSB/Handout via REUTERS/File photo

He wrote that Boeing had previously provided names of dozens of employees on or around "the subject airplane during key periods, such as the shifts on which the door plug was opened and closed, including members of the door crew."

Homendy plans to send the Senate her own letter detailing the NTSB's view of Boeing's cooperation. An NTSB spokesperson did not immediately comment on Friday but has said she stands by her testimony.

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