FBI Tells Passengers On Blown-Out-Door-Plug Flight They May Be 'Victim Of A Crime'

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Mar 23, 2024 - 11:15 PM

In the latest bad news for Boeing, the FBI has started notifying passengers on the Jan. 5 Alaska Airlines flight that experienced a terrifying blowout of a door-plug that they may be a "victim of a crime." 

“As a victim specialist with the Seattle division, I’m contacting you because we have identified you as a possible victim of a crime,” read the FBI letters to travelers on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. “This case is currently under investigation by the FBI. A criminal investigation can be a lengthy undertaking, and for several reasons, we cannot tell you about its progress at this time.” 

In early March, it was reported that the Justice Department had opened an investigation of Boeing over the incident, which involved a Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft used for an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California. Soon after takeoff, a door plug -- a panel used to fill an area that in some configurations might hold a functioning door -- blew out of the side of the aircraft. Fortunately, the seats adjacent to the hole weren't occupied, and there were no serious injuries. 

In a preliminary report on its own inquiry, the National Transportation Safety Board said the door plug was missing four bolts that are used to secure it to the fuselage. They also said they'd determined the bolts weren't installed when the plane left a Boeing assembly plant in late 2023. 

The DOJ investigation is ominous enough on its own, but it could also have a serious follow-on effect: 

If the Justice Department brings any criminal charge against Boeing in the Alaska Airlines case, that would give prosecutors the grounds to tear up the earlier agreement and charge Boeing for its role in the crashes of a Lion Air flight in 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in 2019. Those crashes resulted in the deaths of 346 passengers and crew. -- Bloomberg

In that earlier combined case, Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 million, with most of that going to customers. In exchange, the DOJ agreed not to charge Boeing for withholding information from the Federal Aviation Administration pursuant to obtaining FAA approval for the MAX model. 

On March 19, FAA chief Michael Whitaker said his visit to Boeing facilities left him with the impression that the firm's "priorities have been on production, and not on safety and quality." In February, the FAA published a report in which it noted 27 failings of safety procedures and culture at Boeing.  

The door-plug blowout was just the first of a string of worrying incidents involving Boeing jets in 2024, the rest of which have no doubt left United Airlines with a bad case of buyer's remorse...