Boeing Blames Missing Paperwork for Alaska Air Incident, Prompting Rebuke from Safety Regulators

In January, a major incident occurred on an Alaska Airlines flight when a door plug blew off a 737 Max mid-flight. The investigation has been complicated by missing paperwork, which Boeing recently acknowledged might have caused the problem.

Incident Overview

On January 5, an Alaska Airlines 737 Max experienced an uncontrolled decompression at around 16,000 feet when a door plug came off. This incident injured several passengers and caused significant in-flight disruption.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been investigating, but the absence of key documentation has made it difficult to determine who was responsible.

Boeing’s Admission

In a briefing at Boeing’s 737 Max factory in Renton, Washington, Boeing officials revealed that missing paperwork led to the failure to install four essential bolts for the door plug. Workers who needed to complete the installation never received the necessary work order, resulting in the incident.

NTSB’s Reaction

The NTSB reprimanded Boeing for releasing non-public information about the investigation. The agency accused Boeing of violating protocols by sharing investigative details with the media.

As a consequence, Boeing has lost access to information generated by the NTSB during the investigation and the NTSB has referred Boeing’s conduct to the Department of Justice.

Boeing’s Response

Boeing stated that its intention was to be transparent and take responsibility for its role in the incident. The company apologized to the NTSB, expressing regret that their comments overstepped investigative boundaries. Boeing emphasized their commitment to addressing the underlying issues and improving safety protocols.

Details of the Incident

The incident happened because two separate groups of employees were involved in handling the door plug. The first group removed it to fix rivet issues but did not document the removal.

The second group, unaware of the missing bolts, reinstalled the plug temporarily to protect the fuselage, assuming someone else would complete the task later. This lapse in communication and documentation resulted in the door plug blowing out mid-flight.

Safety Measures and Improvements

Following the incident, Boeing has taken steps to slow down its assembly lines to ensure thorough checks and prevent such oversights. They are implementing stricter controls to guarantee that no planes leave the factory with unresolved issues. Boeing is committed to ensuring the safety of every aircraft produced.


The Alaska Airlines incident highlights the critical importance of proper documentation and communication in aircraft manufacturing. While Boeing works to rectify its processes, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of lapses in quality control.

The ongoing investigation by the NTSB will continue to shed light on the incident, with a final report expected in the future.

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