Boeing’s Investigation: Airlines Inspect 40 Identical Planes Following Midair Blowout

WASHINGTON — Federal officials have provided a congressional committee with updates on their investigations into a jetliner that experienced a midflight fuselage panel loss earlier this month. The officials disclosed that airlines have inspected 40 identical Boeing planes, as scrutiny intensifies surrounding the incident.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its intentions to review the inspection data for Boeing 737 Max 9 jets. This review will inform the development of a maintenance process before allowing these planes to carry passengers again.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy and FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker briefed members of the Senate Commerce Committee in Washington for two hours on Wednesday. Both officials indicated that their investigations into Boeing and the accident are still in the early stages.

Following the closed-door session, Senator Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, revealed that no mention was made of penalties or enforcement during the briefing. He expressed confidence, however, that there will be consequences once the investigations conclude. Moran also stated that Whitaker emphasized the FAA’s focus on the challenges Boeing has faced over a longer period of time, with this incident being just one component.

During the briefing, there was also a discussion about ensuring the FAA’s proper oversight. The FAA and NTSB declined to comment on the details of the briefing.

Separately, Chair Homendy mentioned that the NTSB will scrutinize the production process and installation method of the fuselage panel. She confirmed that the panel was manufactured in Malaysia by Boeing’s primary supplier, Spirit AeroSystems.

This development draws attention to Boeing’s global supply chain, as the company has outsourced much of its manufacturing over the years. A spokesperson for Spirit AeroSystems confirmed that the panel was made in Malaysia and expressed the company’s commitment to cooperating with the NTSB.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun visited the Wichita, Kansas factory of Spirit AeroSystems and pledged to work collaboratively to improve the situation. Calhoun and Spirit CEO Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, addressed about 200 Spirit employees in what the companies referred to as a town hall.

The CEOs emphasized the importance of learning from the incident and applying those lessons to all future projects. They expressed confidence in restoring confidence by working with the NTSB, FAA, airlines, and Boeing.

The investigation into the accident involving an Alaska Airlines Max 9 is being led by the NTSB, while the FAA examines whether Boeing and its suppliers followed quality-control protocols.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the only other U.S. carrier utilizing the Max 9, reported finding loose hardware in door plugs on other planes they inspected following the incident. As a result, both airlines have grounded their Max 9s and canceled numerous flights.

Boeing’s stock experienced a 1% increase on Wednesday but has dropped 18% since the accident, making it the worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average during this period.