A new report says the Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet that lost part of its fuselage in midair was faulty when it left the factory.
The depressurized plane, which was carrying 171 passengers and six crew members, returned safely to Portland International Airport with no serious injuries.
The Wall Street Journal, citing sources it did not name, reported Monday that bolts that should have been holding the piece in place were missing when the jet left the factory.
The report said airplane industry sources, including those at Boeing, believe workers did not put back the bolts after reinstalling a plug door, which had been opened or removed during production.
Sources told the Journal that the conclusion was partly based on the “apparent absence of markings on the Alaska door plug itself that would suggest bolts were in place.”
They said the theory was backed up by “paperwork and process lapses” at the factory where the plane was produced.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the incident.
The Journal noted that the plug door was made at a Malaysian factory of Spirit AeroSystems, which delivered the fuselage to Boeing with the door plug installed after the fuselage was assembled in Wichita, Kansas.
The report noted the inspection process that took place after all 737 MAX 9 jets were grounded revealed loose hardware on some jets.
Alaska Airlines has put the blame on Boeing.
“In the aftermath of Flight 1282 and in light of the N.T.S.B. investigation, it’s clear to us we received an airplane from the manufacturer with a faulty door plug,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has cited what he called a “quality escape” for the issue.
Jeff Simon, a pilot and mechanic who is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to inspect aircraft, theorized that the bolts had failed over time.
“In the world of aircraft maintenance, anytime we look at a failure we look as much at what’s intact as we do at what’s broken,” Simon said.
“It appears that the plug left the aircraft following a similar pathway to how it’s designed to be removed for service,” he said. “And therefore the next logical conclusion is to look at what locks the plug in place in its normal operations.
“Those are the bolts I would be focusing on first.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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