Boeing 737 Max 9 Investigation: Key Piece Found After Midflight Blowout Shocks Passengers

PORTLAND, Oregon — Federal officials investigating the midflight blowout of an Alaska Airlines aircraft have located the missing piece of the fuselage, a crucial detail in their investigation. United Airlines also reported finding loose door plug bolts on some of its own Boeing 737 Max 9s, causing these aircraft to be grounded nationwide. The investigation centers around the explosive decompression incident that occurred during the flight.

A Portland schoolteacher discovered the refrigerator-sized door plug in his backyard, and NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy confirmed the discovery in a news conference. The teacher, Bob Sauer, found the door plug intact in a lower tree branch. The investigation team believes that the door plug holds vital information that will help determine the cause of the blowout.

United Airlines officials stated that their inspections revealed instances of installation issues in the door plug, such as bolts requiring additional tightening. A publication called The Air Current first reported this news. The investigation will include a thorough examination of the door plug’s components, including the bolts, washers, nuts, and other structures.

The blowout occurred on Flight 1282, which sustained a rapid decompression shortly after takeoff. Passengers experienced a violent and chaotic event as headrests were ripped off seats and items were sucked out of the cabin. Several guests were injured but have since been medically cleared. Due to the incident, Alaska Airlines has grounded the impacted aircraft, and United Airlines has canceled over 470 flights for Max 9 inspections.

While the loss of critical cockpit audio recordings due to a device setting complicates the investigation, Homendy assured that the team would continue to examine the interior of the plane. They will also recover and analyze the detached door plug. Boeing has expressed agreement with the FAA’s decision to ground the affected 737 Max 9 planes. The manufacturer is collaborating with Spirit AeroSystems, the supplier responsible for manufacturing the fuselage of the Max jets, to address the issue.

The investigation will focus on understanding what caused the blowout and prevent similar incidents in the future. The FAA has ordered emergency inspections of the grounded aircraft, which could take up to eight hours per plane. Boeing and the FAA have provided instructions for the inspections, which have been approved by the FAA.

The NTSB is urging the FAA and Congress to require all aircraft to extend their cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours to avoid losing critical information. The agency considers the audio captured by the recorders as crucial for understanding incidents and improving aviation safety.

In conclusion, federal officials have located the missing door plug from the Alaska Airlines aircraft that experienced a blowout. The investigation is ongoing, and the recovered door plug holds significant evidence. Airlines have grounded and canceled flights to inspect their Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. The NTSB is determined to determine the cause of the blowout and enhance aviation safety measures.