Commercial pilot weighs in on Boeing 737 Max 9 problems
SAN DIEGO — The National Transportation Safety Board is in its fourth day investigating how a door plug flew off an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight taking off from Portland, Oregon.
Since the incident, the FAA temporarily grounded all 737 Max 9 planes. Now other airlines are finding loose equipment on their Max planes.
“We have not yet recovered the four bolts that restrain it from its vertical movement, and we have not yet determined if they existed there,” said Clint Crooshanks, NTSB Aerospace engineer.
This means investigators are trying to figure out if the bolts came off in the blowout.
CBS 8 spoke to a flight instructor and commercial pilot not related to the case but closely following the investigation. He believes this could be a workmanship problem.
“There may not be anything wrong with the materials themselves, it might just be in the way it was all assembled,” said commercial pilot Robert Katz.
The flight instructor suspects the bolts will probably never be found, but the identical door plug on the other side of the plane can give NTSB a better idea of what happened.
“To determine if those bolts are of the proper quality and workmanship, and their installation was done correctly, and they were torqued properly, all that sort of thing, because that would be very indicative of what was going on with the bolts in the door that failed,” said Katz.
United Airlines reported during their inspection they found loose bolts in the door panel on their 737 Max 9, and techs for Alaska Airlines reported seeing loose hardware on some of their grounded fleet.
On Dec. 28, the FAA announced that Boeing directed airlines to inspect 737 Max planes for loose bolts after two commercial aircrafts reported missing bolts in their rudder control system.
“I’m beginning to think that the bolts that hold this plug in place were not tightened properly,” said Katz. “Then that’s obviously a weak link in the chain. That is disturbing to hear that.”
Some airlines, including Alaska and United, cover up the plugs on the inside because they’re not needed for seat configuration.
A passenger on one of those flights would not know they were sitting next to a door plug. And unlike sitting in an exit row, this knowledge is not given out.
If a passenger is walking to their seat and happen to be in that row, it will look like the average panel with a window. But from the outside, there is this outline of a door.
Even if recent issues are addressed, the 737 Max is surrounded with controversy, and some ask if those planes will ever be safe to fly.