Federal investigators have not determined whether the bolts were installed on the 737 Max that flew on the Alaska flight.

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Spirit Aerosystems offices in Farmers Branch, Texas.


Washington
CNN

Investigators are investigating why a part of the Boeing 737 Max 9 It exploded mid-flight It has yet to be determined whether the bolt was attached to that piece of aircraft earlier this month.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homandy told reporters after a closed-door briefing for lawmakers Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing. Investigators are determining what caused Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 to explode on Jan. 5 when a door plug that covered the space left by the emergency exit doors removed from the side of the plane. Leave a gap On the side of the plane.

He said the investigation isn't just focused on the bolts, and that his teams are currently collecting detailed records of the door insert's assembly and its journey from Malaysia to factories in Wichita, Kansas and Renton, Washington. He said it was unclear whether Boeing employees removed the plug from the plane's fuselage when it arrived in Renton from its subcontractor, Spirit Aerosystems.

He said scientists at the NTSB's lab are currently examining the plug but have not yet begun taking it apart.

“They have a very bright light. They take target photos,” Homandy said. “They can take some metal shavings and put them under an electron microscope.”

Next week, NTSB officials will begin plugging the door to further examine its construction.

Homandy said he and the Federal Aviation Administration chief, who is virtually at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, speak once or twice most days.

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Extended study

The FAA announced Wednesday Expanding its research Boeing 737 Max 9 quality control following an in-flight explosion this month.

In a new statement, the FAA says it is now investigating Spirit Aerosystems, the contractor that builds the Boeing 737 Max 9's fuselage. Last week the FAA opened an investigation Boeing's Quality Control After Alaska Airlines Incident

The FAA says the investigation will focus on whether Boeing “failed to ensure the finished product conformed to its approved design and was in a condition for safe operation in accordance with FAA regulations.” Boeing said in a statement last Thursday that it will “cooperate fully and openly with the FAA and NTSB in their investigations.”

Spirit Aerosystems did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FAA says all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9s in the United States have been grounded, and the agency has received new information from preliminary inspections of 40 of those planes.

“The first 40 studies that are part of that process have now been completed, and the FAA will thoroughly review the data from them,” the FAA said in a statement. “Once the FAA approves an inspection and maintenance procedure, it will be required on every base 737-9 Max prior to future operation.”

Boeing made the announcement Monday to help restore confidence in its manufacturing Allow airlines into Boeing factories and Spirit Aero Systems.

Partners of Spirit AeroSystems last year Central government sued Against the company, they alleged “widespread and persistent quality failures” in its products.

Quality failures, ranging from debris in the products to missing fasteners and peeling paint, led to the Boeing Spirit being placed on probation from 2018 until at least 2021, the suit says. The case, previously reported by The Lever, did not specifically mention door plugs.

“The persistent quality failures were part of Spirit's culture of prioritizing short-term financial results over production numbers and product quality, and were attributable to Spirit's failure to hire sufficient personnel to provide quality products at the prices demanded by Spirit and its customers,” the lawsuit states. Boeing.”

A former employee of Spirit Aerosystems, who worked as a quality manager and analyst, wrote an ethics complaint to the company in 2022. According to the lawsuit, the former employee believed that “Spirit considered products more important than quality.”

Joe Puccino, a spokesman for Spirit Aerosystems, said in a statement last week: “Spirit strongly disagrees with plaintiffs' assertions in the amended complaint and intends to vigorously defend against the claims. Spirit would not comment further on pending litigation.

In April, Spirit Aerosystems Identified A manufacturing problem with the rear fuselage section of certain 737 models. “This is not an immediate safety of flight issue. We have processes in place to address these types of manufacturing issues when they are identified, which we follow,” the company later said in a statement.

In August, the company revealed Some models of the 737 fuselage have the wrong holes drilled on the “after pressure bulkhead”. Both Spirit and Boeing said reports It was determined that the issue was not an immediate aviation-safety concern.

This story has been updated with additional developments and context

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