Federal investigators in the US have located the flying door of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max mid-flight Friday, an important step in their efforts to understand what went wrong with the plane.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
The door plug – a “key component” for investigators – was located in the backyard of a Portland resident identified only as “Bob” on Sunday night, according to Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent U.S. government agency responsible. Investigating transport accidents.
The Alaska Airlines plane was carrying 171 passengers and six crew members when it crashed mid-flight and a portion of the plane’s fuselage was blown off. Everyone on board landed safely back in Portland, Oregon.
The US airline regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, on Saturday ordered the temporary grounding of some 737 Max 9s operated by American airlines or on US territory while the NTSB opens an investigation into the incident.
Homendy said pilots had received pressurization warnings on three flights in the month before the incident. He said the NTSB had described those incidents as “benign” and it was unclear whether the previous warning lights had any connection to Friday’s incident.
However, “it’s definitely a concern and we want to explore it”, he said.
Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the door plug was located in a Portland resident’s backyard © Craig Micheldere/AP
Alaska Airlines had placed restrictions on the aircraft, preventing it from making long overseas trips such as to Hawaii, so that it could quickly return to the airport if needed. The carrier also ordered additional maintenance on the light that was not completed at the time of the incident, Homendy said.
Photos and videos shared by passengers on social media showed a portion of the plane’s side wall and a window missing and oxygen masks deployed.
Homendy described the situation onboard as “chaos” after the door plug burst and described extensive damage inside the plane including seats bent out of their shape and tray tables torn. “When I saw it I thought that must have been a terrible thing to experience,” he said.
Boeing has called a company-wide safety meeting on Tuesday to discuss its response to the incident.
Chief Executive David Calhoun, who will host the meeting from the Renton, Washington, factory where the Max is assembled, said the meeting will reinforce the company’s focus on safety.
“When serious accidents like this happen, it is important for us. , , “Understand and address the causes of the incidents, and ensure they do not happen again,” he said in a memo to employees Sunday.
The NTSB said the crash occurred at an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet and just 10 minutes after takeoff. The two seats next to the passive exhaust cabin door were unoccupied, leaving a large hole in the aircraft’s fuselage.
While often used as an additional exit on more densely configured low-cost carriers, the door is permanently plugged on Alaska Airlines planes.
“The most surprising thing to me is that the door closed,” said John Cox, a retired pilot and chief executive of Safety Operating Systems, an aviation safety consultancy. Other types of aircraft also use similar plug-in doors, he said, adding, “I am not aware of any case where this has happened before.”
Given that the plane was just two months old, investigators “will look in great detail at the assembly records and quality assurance inspections of that part of the airplane,” Cox said.
Homendy said Saturday that although the investigation focused on the Alaska Airlines incident, not Boeing’s MAX fleet, “we will go where the investigation takes us.”
The crash is the latest blow to Boeing, which has struggled with manufacturing defects on the 737, and continues to face the fallout from a 20-month worldwide grounding imposed by regulators after two fatal crashes five months apart in 2018-19. Is.
The aerospace group said in a statement Saturday that it supports the temporary grounding.
“Safety is our top priority,” Boeing said. “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.”
According to data from aviation consultancy Cirium, there are 215 Max 9 aircraft in service globally. The largest operators are United Airlines and Alaska Airlines in the US, Turkish Airlines and Copa Airlines of Panama.
Copa said it had temporarily suspended flights of 21 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets. Turkey said it had withdrawn its small fleet of five Max 9 aircraft.
Alaska Airlines canceled 21 percent of its flights Sunday, while United canceled 8 percent, according to flight data website FlightAware. Copa and Aeromexico reported 14 and 11 percent cancellations, respectively.
Garth Thompson, president of the United Airlines chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, said that while the union was pleased that regulators acted with caution, he had not yet heard of similar problems being found on any other aircraft during inspections. I haven’t heard. “Hopefully this will be a one-off,” he said.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it has adopted the FAA’s emergency directive, but that it is a “precautionary measure as we understand from both the FAA and Boeing that no European airlines in EASA member states currently operate aircraft in the affected configuration.” Does”.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said on Saturday that since there were no UK-registered 737 Max 9 planes, “the impact on UK-operated aircraft and consumers is minimal”. The agency said it had written to all non-UK and foreign permitted carriers asking them to “confirm that inspections have been carried out prior to any operations in UK airspace”.