Retired Navy admiral to lead probe of Boeing after blowout fiasco

Jan 17, 2024, 7:14 PM

retired navy admiral boeing...

Photo of the gaping hole in the side of the Alaska Airlines jet opened up where aircraft maker Boeing fits a “plug” to cover an emergency exit that the airline does not use. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Can a retired admiral with nuclear submarine experience fix Boeing’s quality woes?

The company confirmed Tuesday it has tapped retired Admiral Kirkland H. Donald to lead a team that will independently assess the company’s quality control programs and make recommendations.

This comes after a panel — used in place of an emergency exit — blew out of an Alaska Airlines jet manufactured by Boeing following take off from Portland International Airport on Jan. 5.

More on Boeing: FAA is investigating the company, but Cantwell wants answers from FAA

The gaping hole caused the cabin to rapidly depressurize. Passengers reported hearing a loud noise and putting on oxygen masks that dropped. The flight returned to the Portland, Oregon, and safely made an emergency landing.

No serious injuries were reported, but Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said if this occurred at cruising altitude, “we could have ended up with something so much more tragic.”

In appointing Donald to his new role, Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun noted the former admiral served as a nuclear-trained submarine officer for 37 years. Donald also spent eight of those years ensuring the navy’s nuclear-powered warships operated safely.

“Admiral Donald is a recognized leader in ensuring the integrity of some of the most complex and consequential safety and quality systems in the world,” Calhoun added.

Boeing already faces tighter scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 Max airplanes pending inspections. In a statement released Wednesday, the FAA said the first 40 inspections have been completed and the agency is currently reviewing data.

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“All 737-9 Max aircraft with door plugs will remain grounded pending the FAA’s review and final approval of an inspection and maintenance process that satisfies all FAA safety requirements,” the agency said.

The FAA said it is also investigating Boeing’s manufacturing and production lines, as well as those of its subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems. The Wichita-based company made the fuselage of the plane that ripped open.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of her stories here. Follow Heather on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Retired Navy admiral to lead probe of Boeing after blowout fiasco