Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Boeing 737 MAX 9  : the torn door is found, but questions remain

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This photo, provided by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), shows a gaping hole where a partition covering a door came loose during an Alaska Airlines flight on Friday.

  • Anne Marie Lecomte (View profile)Anne Marie Lecomte

Even if the door of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 which had come off in full flight on Friday was found, many questions arise regarding this incident which forced an Alaska Airlines plane to make an emergency landing with 171 passengers and 6 crew members on board.

No one was injured. The incident occurred shortly after takeoff, while the aircraft was flying at an altitude of nearly 5,000 m. The two seats next to the torn door were not occupied.

The detachment of the cabin door was done with such force that the cockpit door opened. They [the pilots] heard a bang, described Jennifer Homendy, who chairs the US Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The decompression was such that one of the pilots lost his headphones. Head rests and the backs of some seats came loose and clothes were scattered throughout the plane.

The device was flying between the cities of Portland, Oregon, and Ontario, California, and the door was found by a teacher who saw it in the backyard of his house in Portland. The door is a key element that can tell us a lot about what happened, Homendy said. Our team responsible for the structures intends to examine the door and all its components, she described: the markers, the remains of paint… They will also be able to see what condition the door was in when it was found.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Jennifer Homendy, president of the US Transportation Safety Board, said she was greatly relieved that the door had been found because it was “a key element” in the investigation. (File photo)

However, the cockpit voice recorder cannot reveal anything, since other data was recorded on the old ones. Which prompts Jennifer Homendy to reiterate her call for regulatory authorities to require the reestablishment, on planes already in circulation, of recorders that retain 25 hours of data. Currently, in the United States, only two hours of recording are required.

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The NTSB chair says that since 2018, the agency has conducted ten investigations in which data was overwritten with new ones on the cockpit voice recorder.

Cockpit voice recorders are not only useful to the NTSB or the FAA in the framework of their investigations. They are crucial to accurately pinpointing what happened.

A quote from Jennifer Homendy, Chairman of the US Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Following this incident, the United States Federal Civil Aviation Agency (FAA) on Saturday ordered that 171 Boeing 737 MAX9 aircraft be grounded temporarily on the ground. These planes feature the same 60-pound bulkhead that was on the Alaska Airlines plane. This partition covers a condemned door and is hidden by a porthole.

This situation comes as Boeing and its supplier Spirit AeroSystems (which manufactures the partition in question) are experiencing production delays that compromise their ability to recover from another episode during which 737 MAX aircraft were grounded for a long time. ground. The COVID-19 pandemic also caused production delays.

Of the 171 planes currently under inspection, 144 are in use in the United States, according to aviation data analytics firm Cirium. The FAA says the planes will remain on the ground as long as necessary.

Like American companies like United Airlines, the FAA One of the world's firsts, Turkish Airlines, Aeroméxico and the Panamanian company Copa Airlines have grounded their aircraft of this type to inspect them, as required by an FAA directive.

The Alaska Airlines plane which lost a part of its fuselage had been dealing with another malfunction since December 7. But Jennifer Homendy of the NTSB says it's too early to determine whether that played a role in Friday's incident.

The malfunction involved a pressure warning light that had gone out during three previous flights, the NTSB revealed. Because of this problem, Alaska Airlines did not use the aircraft for long flights over water, such as to Hawaii.

It's certainly a concern and we'll investigate it, Jennifer Homendy said.The president of the NTSB explained that the carrier had asked its maintenance employees to find the origin of this malfunction. But this work had not been done before the flight from Oregon to California on Friday; employees had reset the system and returned the device to service, although not for destinations such as Hawaii.

With information from Associated Press, Reuters and New York Times

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