MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Whistleblower: Boeing problems on the Renton assembly line may run deep

Jan 24, 2024, 8:34 AM | Updated: 11:34 am

Boeing building. (Photo from KIRO 7)...

Boeing building. (Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

Boeing may be at fault for a fuselage panel that blew off of an Alaska jet earlier this month, according to an anonymous source talking to the Seattle Times.

In an exclusive report by Dominic Gates, a Pulitzer Prize-winning aerospace journalist for the Times, the panel in question may have been reinstalled improperly by Boeing mechanics on the Renton assembly line.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, but if the allegations are true, Boeing would be primarily at fault for the accident.

Initial thoughts were that Spirit AeroSystems, which originally installed the panel, would be the logical culprit.

That panel, a door plug used to seal a hole in the fuselage sometimes used to accommodate an emergency exit, blew out of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 as it climbed out of Portland on Jan. 5.

More Boeing news: Number of passengers in class-action lawsuit against Alaska Air, Boeing grows

The incident ignited new criticism of Boeing’s quality control systems.

An anonymous whistleblower — who appears to have access to Boeing’s manufacturing records of the work done assembling the specific Alaska Airlines jet that suffered the blowout — on an aviation website separately provided many additional details about how the door plug came to be removed and then misinstalled.

“The reason the door blew off is stated in black and white in Boeing’s own records,” the whistleblower wrote. “It is also very, very stupid and speaks volumes about the quality culture at certain portions of the business.”

More on Boeing: Door plug found after ‘explosive decompression’ of a Max 9

Although the identification of the whistleblower is not known,  the Times confirmed with a Renton mechanic and a former 737 MAX production line manager that his description of how this kind of rework is performed and by whom is accurate.

The Times also confirmed that the whistleblower accurately described the computer systems Boeing uses to record and track 737 assembly work, which mechanics and engineers sign into daily when they begin work.

“I’m more than frustrated and disappointed,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC News. “I am angry.”

KIRO Newsradio, MyNorthwest and the Times have reached out to have Boeing respond to the allegations. The company says it does not comment during investigations.

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Whistleblower: Boeing problems on the Renton assembly line may run deep