The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that the near catastrophe on an Alaska Airlines plane after a door blew off should not have happened and ‘cannot happen again.’
In their Thursday statement, regulators added that they have informed Boeing that they are conducting an investigation to determine if the aircraft maker failed ‘to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation.’
‘The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service,’ the FAA said.
The FAA grounded 171 Boeing jets installed with the same panel after the landing, most of which are operated by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, pending safety inspections.
‘We will cooperate fully and transparently with the FAA and the NTSB on their investigations,’ Boeing said in a statement.
It comes after aviation experts expressed concerns that flawed Boeing 737 Max planes have filled the skies due to an inexperienced workforce.
This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again. The FAA formally notified Boeing that it is conducting an investigation. pic.twitter.com/FJripns1CP
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) January 11, 2024
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Wall Street analyst Jason Gursky said the aircraft maker’s struggles are partly caused by the ‘relatively inexperienced’ workforce that replaced the veteran workers who did not return after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new workers face a steep learning curve when it comes to assembling passenger jets, and small errors during the process could have fatal consequences. As the Times notes, other Max 9 Jets haven’t had issues with plugs blowing out, pointing to a manufacturing slip that was not caught in time.
Earlier this week, Boing CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged errors by the planemaker as more than 170 jets remained grounded, telling staff the company would ensure an accident like the mid-air Alaska Airlines panel blowout ‘can never happen again.’
Calhoun’s remarks were Boeing’s first public acknowledgment of errors since a so-called door plug snapped off the fuselage of a nearly full 737 MAX 9 on Friday, leaving a gaping hole next to a miraculously empty seat. The problem-plagued aircraft’s 8 variant suffered two fatal crashes in 2017 and 2018 that were caused by its computers and which killed more than 300.
Calhoun said he had been ‘shaken to the bone’ by the accident, which rekindled pressure on Boeing over its troubled small plane family almost five years after a full-blown MAX safety crisis sparked by deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Boeing has previously faced scrutiny over its planes after the two deadly crashes involving the previous model of the 737 in 2018 and 2019.
However, unlike those deadly crashes, the Alaska Airlines’ incident was not caused by a design flaw, but by loose plus that blew up mid-flight, which makes it likely that the error occurred in the manufacturing process.