It was a "very, very stupid" mistake that "speaks volumes about the quality culture" at Boeing.
On January 5, the "door plug" was suddenly ripped out of a Boeing 737 MAX 9's fuselage mid-flight, forcing the Alaska Airlines-operated passenger jet to make an emergency landing.
While all passengers and crew made it back to the ground unscathed, regulators are still trying to make sense of what happened — and, crucially, who's to blame.
At first, court documents obtained by The Lever suggested that Boeing spinoff Spirit AeroSystems, the company Boeing subcontracted to manufacture the door plugs, was potentially at fault, given a track record of an "excessive amount of defects."
But now, according to an account by an anonymous whistleblower confirmed with another source by the Seattle Times, it sounds like it may have been Boeing's own lack of quality control that led to the door plug being mis-installed after being removed for repairs prior to the January 5 incident.
All told, it looks like yet another black eye for the aerospace giant, which had already been reeling from previous deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX airplanes and a slate of other embarrassments.
The first whistleblower claimed to have access to the airplane maker's manufacturing records.
"The reason the door blew off is stated in black and white in Boeing’s own records," the whistleblower wrote in a note on an aviation website. "It is also very, very stupid and speaks volumes about the quality culture at certain portions of the business."
The whistleblower's allegations line up with findings by National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who found that certain bolts had not been installed, which likely led to the door plug getting ripped out.
The Seattle Times also verified details provided by the whistleblower with a person familiar with the situation, including ways Boeing performs repairs of the door plugs, as "authentic and authoritative."
Boeing declined to comment on the matter to the newspaper, citing the ongoing investigation.
So what led to the door plug being ripped out? Per the whistleblower's account, mistakes made during the reinstallation of the plug door were never entered into a computer system, which never triggered a quality inspection.
"I think there is a very high probability this is accurate," Ed Pierson, a former manager of the MAX production line, told the Seattle Times.
More on the incident: Gaping Hole in Boeing 737 Linked to Stuffing More Passengers Into Flights
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