Alaska Airlines Flight Door Incident Spurs FBI Investigation and Passenger Lawsuits

The FBI is examining an alarming incident aboard an Alaska Airlines flight in January, where a door plug detached from the aircraft mid-flight. Passengers have been informed they might be victims of a crime related to this event, which involved a Boeing 737 Max 9 airplane. The door plug blew off at approximately 16,000 feet, reportedly due to missing bolts.

Following the incident, numerous passengers have filed lawsuits against airplane manufacturer Boeing. In March, both Boeing and Alaska Airlines rejected legal liability, despite Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun admitting to CNBC that the incident was “our mistake.” They requested the dismissal of the lawsuits. Mark Lindquist, a lawyer representing 27 passengers, reported that his clients received letters from the FBI’s Seattle office on March 19.

This probe contributes to Boeing’s mounting legal challenges. Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have also initiated investigations into the aerospace company’s practices.

The FAA uncovered several quality control issues in Boeing’s 737 Max production during a March 2024 audit. The same month, numerous setbacks for Boeing included a 777-200 losing a wheel, a 737 veering off a runway, and a 787 Dreamliner experiencing a dramatic nose dive. Furthermore, a former Boeing employee and whistleblower, John Barnett, died by suicide ahead of a lawsuit deposition, and Boeing sued Virgin Galactic over allegations of trade secret theft.

A preliminary report by the NTSB in February 2024 revealed that the Alaska Airlines flight that experienced the door plug incident was missing four crucial bolts. In response, the FAA grounded all Max 9 aircraft for further inspection.

Boeing’s troubles stretch back years, with various safety concerns raised by aviation regulators worldwide and a significant House panel investigation that blamed Boeing for failures in the Max aircraft’s design and development. Despite settling for billions of dollars and entering a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ, Boeing’s safety culture and internal communication have been under scrutiny.

The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes in 2019 and 2018, involving Boeing 737 Max aircraft, brought global attention to the company’s issues. The FAA and Boeing have been investigating the 737 Max series since then, with China and other countries grounding the jets following the accidents.

Victims’ families and industry observers have criticized Boeing’s track record, suggesting that these incidents are part of a broader pattern of negligence rather than isolated events. Boeing has since paid substantial settlements, fines, and compensation, but questions about the company’s commitment to safety and corporate practices persist.

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