Designed By Clowns, Supervised By Monkeys – Boeing 737’s Door Panel That Blew Off Did Not Have Bolts

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Feb 07 2024
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One of Boeing’s selling points – or rather marketing gimmicks – in selling its 737 MAX jetliner was that pilots certified for an earlier generation of 737 jets only needed a short computer course to fly its fourth generation plane. That helped Boeing made tonnes of money as MAX quickly became its best-selling airplanes – till two deadly crashes which killed hundreds of people.


Boeing 737 Max suffered a crisis of confidence in 2019 after “two fatal crashes” within about five months of one another. After Indonesian budget airline Lion Air Flight 610 crashed on Oct 29, 2018, killing 189 people, a second crash involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Mar 10, 2019 killed all 157 people on board (including passengers from 35 nations).


After an 18-month investigation into Boeing 737 MAX 8 deadly crashes – which killed 346 people in two accidents between 2018 and 2019 – the U.S. House of Representatives released its final report. The 238-page report from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure basically confirmed what the public suspected – Boeing and FAA were responsible!

Boeing 737 Max 9 Door Plug - Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 - Investigation

From the beginning, the 737 MAX – Boeing’s bestseller airplane – was produced with “serious flaws and missteps in the design, development, and certification of the aircraft.” Despite that, the 737 MAX aircraft – made at Boeing’s factory in the US state of Washington – received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in March 2017.


Two years after it was banned from flying passengers, the Boeing 737 Max 8 was eventually cleared to return to the skies again in 2021. Obviously, it was both a commercial and political decisions as Boeing’s business was severely affected as the company has thousands of 737 Max orders on its books. The company agreed to repair the flight control system, update operating manuals and increase pilot training.


However, during the investigations, it was discovered that Boeing would do anything in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public. In fact, the hanky-panky within the company was so critical that even its employees had raised alarms internally. An employee wrote in an email in 2017 – “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,”

Boeing 737 Max 8 - Grounded - Crash

That same year, another employee complained about an internal push to bypass costly simulator training – “There will not be any type of simulator training required. We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.” Another wrote in 2018 – “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year”, the same year Lion Air Flight 610 flight crashed into the Java Sea.


Built to compete with the Airbus A320-neo, the 737 Max is a family of commercial aircraft that consists of four models – MAX 8 (first flight on January 2016), MAX 9 (first flew in 2017), MAX 7 (March 2018) and MAX 10 (June 2021). The 737 Max series can fly farther and carry more people than the previous generation of 737s, like the 737-800 and 737-900.


Just when everyone thought the Boeing MAX’s crisis was over, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, carrying 177 passengers and crew, saw an emergency door “plug” blown away shortly after taking off for Ontario, California. Forced to return to Portland, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet landed safely, but with a massive hole as wide as a refrigerator.

Alaska Airlines Exit Door Blown Off - Inside View

An order to ground the model was issued by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) on Jan 6, 2024 to facilitate inspections. However, they were cleared to return to service in late January. Now, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report released on Tuesday ( Feb 6) revealed how the panel could detach from the plane – the “four bolts” to secure the door frame were missing.


The plug was manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems, a former Boeing subsidiary. It was produced at Spirit’s facilities in Malaysia and delivered to its Wichita, Kansas, facility in May 2023. The fuselage, including the door plug, arrived at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, plant on Aug 31. A day later a repair was logged for five damaged rivets, a job that required the bolts to be removed.


Hence, the piece appeared intact when it left the manufacturer. But a photo shared by Boeing employees on Sept 19 after it was removed for a repair shows four key bolts missing. Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, under pressure to address manufacturing defects has admitted responsibility, and agreed to work closely with the authorities to ensure high standards of safety, quality and reliability

Boeing 737 Max 9 Door Plug - Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 - Investigation

Investigators recovered the door in a teacher’s backyard, after which the NTSB did extensive tests and analysis. In addition, there was no damage around the bolt-holes, suggesting they were indeed missing at the time of the incident. The 171 passengers and six crews on board should consider themselves lucky to not only escape death, but also suffered no serious injuries.


The tragedy could be fatal had the door plug detached from the plane at a higher altitude. At 16,000 feet, and still climbing, passengers and crew were seated with seatbelts still on. It was also lucky that no one was seated in 26A and 26B, adjacent to where the door plug was located and blown off. The flight was only about 10 minutes from its departure airport – Portland International – when the panel detached at 6:38pm.


U.S. aviation safety expert John Cox has raised questions about who initially installed the bolts – “When was the last time those bolts were installed? Did Spirit not install them and then when Boeing opened it the guys didn’t realize that they didn’t have the bolts? Or did Boeing not install them? That is something that I don’t think we have an answer for yet.”

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9

It’s not rocket science that Boeing does not care about quality assurance, or deliberately ignores the importance of quality control in order to sell as many planes as possible to make profits. Essentially, the Alaska Airlines had been flying the plane for a couple of months before the January 5 blowout happened, with the bolts missing.


However, the missing bolts are not the only problem. Both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines said last month that inspections of their fleets that took place after the January 5 incident revealed “loose bolts”. Worse, the Federal Aviation Administration has again failed to properly scrutinize Boeing even after the two fatal crashes four years ago.


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Like the American saying, “How to soar like an Eagle when you work with Turkeys”. They are just too lazy to check every bolts and nuts.

The end of the engineering first era of Boeing was during the 1997 buy over of McDonald Douglas (MDD). Funny thing is the richer stronger Boeing kept its name but lost the crucial battle of management control & hence corporate culture and strategy. Bear in mind Boeing was then the commercial aviation giant & MDD the military aviation giant, both different ways to get business & totally different corporate culture.

And this new company is now was ruled by MDD accountants who were interested in cost cutting, profits at the expense of the Boeing culture of engineering and safety first & foremost.

Hence started the inglorious slide of the mighty Boeing. It came to the point that they were defrauding FAA (government) regulators (which Boeing agreed to pay a fine USD 2.5 Billion in Jan 2021). FAA too at fault for being too chummy buddy buddy with Boeing.

Not many know that this B737 was designed in the 1960s. Boeing is just milking the max out of this old design.

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