Attorney ‘stunned’ to see similar Boeing quality control problem 6 years later

Mar 15, 2024, 6:45 PM

Image: A portion of the Boeing aircraft that housed Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 burst open while th...

A portion of the Boeing aircraft that housed Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 burst open while the plane was in the air Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

A passenger – on a Boeing plane in which a door plug blew out – said the rush of air from the gaping hole was so strong, it tore off his shoes and socks.

Cuong Trang said he was lifted off the seat and only stopped by his seatbelt.

6 file lawsuit against Boeing, Spirit Aerosystms, Alaska Airlines

Trang is among six people who just filed a lawsuit against Boeing, Spirit Aerosystems, and Alaska Airlines over the mid-air emergency, on January 5.

Attorney Mark Lindquist represents 26 other passengers who are suing over the door plug blowout.

He told KIRO News Radio’s Gee and Ursula, “It’s only blind luck that nobody died in this incident.”

It happened not long after take-off from Portland International and the plane was able to return safely to the airport.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair, Jennifer Homendy, said had the door plug blown out at cruising altitude, it could have been “catastrophic.”

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Investigators with the NTSB said bolts that were supposed to hold the panel in place were missing.

Attorney says plane was a ‘ticking bomb’

“This plane was a ticking bomb,” Lindquist said.

Alarms were raised about the MAX after two deadly accidents – in late 2018 and early 2019 – led to a worldwide grounding of the MAX-8 model.

The plane was re-certified to fly only after a flight control system implicated in the crashes was fixed.

“That should have been a huge wake-up call for Boeing,” Lindquist said.

He represented dozens of victims’ families in those crashes and still has one case pending.

Five years later, he “was stunned to see that after 346 people died in those two MAX-8 crashes we’re seeing similar quality control problems with the MAX-9.”

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Although much of the focus has been on Boeing, Lindquist said Alaska Airlines is not innocent.

He said a warning light had signaled possible trouble with the plane.

“That warning depressurization light had gone off a couple of times. We believe there had been a ‘whistling sound’ coming from that door (plug) and in a recent report from the New York Times we learned that techs and engineers had recommended the plane be taken out of passenger service,” he said.

Alaska Airlines has said there’s no evidence the warning lights were related to the blowout.

Still, Lindquist said the airline restricted the plane from flying long distances over water.

What happened next: FAA grounds about 170 Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft after Portland flight blowout

“They made a decision that this plane was not safe to fly over the ocean, but somehow safe to fly over land? Good luck explaining that to a jury,” he said.

Boeing faced criminal charges after deadly MAX-8 crashes

Lindquist did add that he thinks Alaska Airlines has a better safety record than Boeing, adding that Boeing faced criminal fraud charges after the deadly MAX-8 crashes.

Boeing avoided prosecution by agreeing to pay more than $2.5 billion dollars in penalties, and compensation to airline customers and victims’ families.

“Among the conditions of that sweetheart deal, though, was that Boeing clean up its act, and it looks to me like they may be in violation of their conditions,” Lindquist said.

On its website, Boeing said it continues to support the federal investigations into the door plug incident and is implementing “new actions to strengthen safety and quality.”

In an interview with CNBC, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun described the incident as “our mistake,” but both Boeing and Alaska Airlines have denied liability in the case.

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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Attorney ‘stunned’ to see similar Boeing quality control problem 6 years later