- By Tom Espiner
- Business Correspondent, BBC News
Airline regulators in the US have launched an investigation into Boeing’s processes after a door jamb blew off one of its planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would investigate whether Boeing made sure its completed planes conformed to the approved design.
The FAA has already grounded most of the 737 Max 9 fleet.
Inspections after the Alaska Airlines emergency revealed problems such as loose bolts.
“This incident should never have happened and cannot happen again,” the FAA said. “Boeing’s manufacturing practices must meet the high safety standards they are legally required to meet.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg previously said the government would be in no rush to clean up Boeing 737 Max 9 planes, which have caused hundreds of flight cancellations.
According to him, the plane “must be 100% safe”. It is unclear when the planes will be allowed to fly again.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun called the problem revealed by the incident on the Portland-to-California, Oregon-to-California plane a “quality escape.”
This means that the plane, which was in service just eight weeks before the incident, had some quality control failure.
Mr. Calhoun told CNBC that there are still questions to be answered about how the incident was allowed to happen. “What went wrong with our inspection arm? What went wrong with the original work that allowed this escape,” he said.
Earlier this week, Mr. Calhoun admitted it was Boeing’s fault after part of the fuselage of a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines exploded minutes after takeoff.
No one was injured when a panel or door jamb broke off an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Saturday grounded 171 Boeing aircraft fitted with the same door jambs.
A door plug is a body piece with a window that fills the space where the emergency exit would be in certain configurations.
Mr. Buttigieg declined to say when the suspension would end. “The only consideration in the timeline is safety,” he said. “It’s not ready until it’s ready. No one can or should rush this process.”
Alaska Airlines canceled about 20% of its flights after 65 Max 9 planes were grounded. United Airlines, the other US 737 MAX 9 operator, has 79 planes out of service.
It said it expected “significant” cancellations on Thursday after 167 flights were canceled on Wednesday.
Alaska Airlines said it still needs revised inspection and maintenance instructions from Boeing to be approved by the FAA before its planes can fly again.
“We will only return these aircraft to service when all findings are fully resolved and meet all stringent FAA and Alaska standards,” the airline said.
Both Alaska and United said Monday they had found loose parts on a number of downed planes.
United said an inspection of an exit door jamb on an Alaska Airlines plane found bolts that needed “additional tightening.”
The fallen part was eventually found in a teacher’s back garden without four bolts.
Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the flight, said Monday that the bolts were missing from the start but may have broken off during landing.