Another accident like Boeing’s door plug blowout could happen again, NTSB chair says

Chris Isidore, CNN | 2/7/2024, 9:27 a.m.
Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, says that the problem that resulted in a door plug blowing …
In this National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) handout, an opening is seen in the fuselage of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on January 7, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. A door-sized section near the rear of the Boeing 737-9 MAX plane blew off 10 minutes after Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland, Oregon on January 5 on its way to Ontario, California. Mandatory Credit: Handout/NTSB/Getty Images

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, says that the problem that resulted in a door plug blowing out of a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet minutes into a January 5 flight could happen again.

“Of course, something like this can happen again,” she told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on CNN This Morning Wednesday, although she added, “This is the reason the NTSB exists to ensure this never happens again.”

Her comments came a day after a preliminary report on the investigation of Alaska Airlines’ blowout incident revealed that evidence points to the four bolts needed to hold the door plug in place were missing.

“There is no way that this plane should have been delivered with four safety critical bolts missing,” she said. “There’s a problem in the process.”

Despite her harsh assessment of this incident, Homendy said she wouldn’t hesitate flying on a 737 Max 9 herself.

“Absolutely. They have been inspected, thoroughly, I believe,” she said. “I would have no problem tomorrow taking a flight on a Max 9.”

On Tuesday, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Whitaker testified before Congress that the agency he has been running since October has been depending too much on aircraft makers like Boeing to regulate themselves.

“The current system is not working ‘cause it’s not delivering safe aircraft,” he said Tuesday. “So we have to make some changes to that.”

Homendy said that the NTSB is also looking at changes that need to be made at the FAA.

“I absolutely agree that it needs to change,” she said. “There’s a problem in the process. We’re not just digging into what’s going on at Boeing. We’re also digging to FAA’s oversight of Boeing as well. I’m very encouraged by the administrator’s comments.”

She said that the string of quality problems at Boeing suggests there is a problem there that goes beyond the plane in the Alaska Airlines incident.

“I think there is a quality control problem,” she said. “That’s exactly what we’re digging in on right now… to see where there are deficiencies to make sure this doesn’t reoccur.”