back to article Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of approximately 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes one day after an emergency exit seal, known as a door plug, blew out of one operated by Alaska Airlines mid-air. An Emergency Airworthiness Directive now requires operators to conduct a four-to …

  1. LogicGate Silver badge

    "Because of the pressurization of the aircraft and speed, if the pressure vessel fails in a scenario like this, it would fail catastrophically," one aerodynamicist told The Register.

    -The pressure vessel did not fail.

    A plug in the pressure vessel came out.

    The edges around the plug were reinforced, and thus unlikely to fail. This is nothing like the 737 convertible incident https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloha_Airlines_Flight_243.

    The fact that the plug did not hit and take out the left-hand horizontal stabilizer is more of a reason to rejoice.. As is the fact that no hapless passenger happened to sit in the adjacent seat without wearing a seatbelt.

    No reason to make up scenarios when the actual event is sufficiently hair-raising in itself.

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Yet another reason to always wear the belt if you are sat down in a plane.

      1. LogicGate Silver badge

        Absolutely!

        Entering windshear at transsonic speed should also not be underestimated.

        Have seen what a negative 10g spike can do and would not want to be without a seatbelt should it occur. The toilet trip is a calculated risk :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As is the fact that no hapless passenger happened to sit in the adjacent seat without wearing a seatbelt.

      In other rapid decompression events, wearing a seatbelt hasn't been enough to stop people being sucked out if they're unlucky enough to be next to the window that's gone.

      1. LogicGate Silver badge

        Every little bit helps. In this instance it helped that the aircraft had not reached cruicing altitude.

        But yes, a person resting their head against the window / window frame (it is hard to find a comfortable resting position) will certainly have trouble keeping said head inside the cabin when the window pops.

        Keep in mind that 0.5 bar of underpressure excerts 50 000 N force per square meter.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        In some of those incidents the floor failed and they were ejected still belted into their seat.

    3. JoeCool Silver badge

      How exactly are you quantifying "failure of the pressure vessel" ? The door, in it's role of sealing in the atmosphere, popping out is certainly a failure.

      Had someones been seated beside it, I am sure it would have been catastrophic for them.

      So the door departing, what is that , 50% of the safety margin for "catastrophic failure" ? 95% ? I would not give Boeing the benefit of assuming they can engineer that margin, since they probably used MD engineering (IE cost engineering) on that door.

      Brining up the spectre of catastrophic failure is certainly pertinent.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        It's a failure but not one that will propagate, unlike, say, a fatigue crack that could lead to a whole section ripping loose. Airplanes aren't like balloons, they don't pop the moment there's a hole.

        1. JoeCool Silver badge

          oh it will not propogate

          and you know this, how ?

          you only know that it didn't propogate in these particular circumstances.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: oh it will not propogate

            Because the position of the failure is the place where a plug to replace an emergency exit is fitted.

            The airline chose not to have an emergency exit here.Presumably to squeeze in more seats.

            The plug failed. Similar to losing an actual door.

            1. ChoHag Silver badge

              Re: oh it will not propogate

              You have that backwards. More seats require more exits.

            2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

              Re: oh it will not propogate

              Although it's called a plug, it's really more of a hatch that can be opened (with a bit of messing around with the interior insulation, etc).

              The seat count issue has been addressed else-post, but the point of this hole in the fuselage is that if you want more than 189 seats in the aircraft, you need an additional pair of emergency exits, and this is where they go. So Thai Lion Air currently operates three 737 Max-9's, but all theirs are configured for 221 seats, so the exit is installed and they aren't impacted by the emergency directive.

              The Max-9 broadly exists as a 757-200 replacement, with similar capabilities but lower operating costs.

            3. JoeCool Silver badge

              systems level propogarion

              looks like you and 9 other downvoters have an extremely naive understanding of failure propogation.

              https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/faulty-door-dooms-plane

              https://www.faa.gov/lessons_learned/transport_airplane/accidents/JA8119

              1. david 12 Silver badge

                Re: systems level propogarion

                faulty-door-dooms-plane

                FWIW, that was a failure of the internal floor of the DC10. The internal floor is not, and was not, designed to be a pressure vessel, so when the cargo hatch came off and the cargo hold depressurised, (without catastrophic failure of the pressure vessel), the floor failed. The floor failure took out the control systems, and the plane crashed. That was a control system catastrophe, not "if the pressure vessel fails in a scenario like this, it would fail catastrophically"

          2. Francis Boyle

            Re: oh it will not propogate

            Failures can be prevented from propagating by the simple expedient of drilling a small hole. In this case the plug was surrounded by a large hole. And if the airframe was designed to depend on the presence of the plug for its structural integrity it was designed wrong. On the other hand this is a Boeing. . .

          3. Orv Silver badge

            Re: oh it will not propogate

            Because it's an opening engineered into the pressure vessel, with all the necessary reinforcement to make sure it doesn't become a stress concentration.

            This is different than a failure that starts with a crack, where the tip of the crack becomes a stress concentration that continues the failure.

            It's like pulling on a piece of paper with a round hole punched in it vs. pulling on a piece of paper with a tear in the edge. The torn piece will finish tearing quite easily.

  2. TVU Silver badge

    Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

    Good, and Boeing deserves everything that's coming its way. There's been high demand for 737 Max aircraft and Boeing's been pumping them out without regard for other factors so it should come as no surprise that there's been shoddy workmanship and precious little checking.

    In the good old days of the 707 and 747, Boeing was engineering-led and had a good safety culture. That all changed with the McDonnell Douglas merger resulting in the McDonnell Douglas bean counter managers effectively taking over Boeing and putting $$$ above everything else.

    It is quite clear that things have not sufficiently changed since the two 737 Max crashes and I'd like to see a complete clear out of the Boeing executives and board members.

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

      I may be wrong, but I have read posts indicating that this plug is not a new design. It may even go back to the 707.

      One line of inquest seems to be whether the plug was inproperly installed during production or possible removed and inproperly re-installed as a part of service / maintenance work.

      Too early for anything certain. For more info, see:

      https://www.pprune.org/accidents-close-calls/656760-alaska-airlines-737-900-max-loses-door-flight-out-pdx-20.html

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        whether the plug was inproperly installed during production or possible removed and inproperly re-installed as a part of service / maintenance work.

        Shouldn't such plugs be designed like the doors themselves, only removable from inside the plane and held in place against the frame by internal pressure? I'd hate to think that their integrity was dependent just on a few bolts.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

          Quite a few doors on airliners aren't plug type (777 and A340 IIRC ) the old "pull in and rotate" plug doors take up a lot of internal space, and of course almost all cargo doors are open outwards

          The open-outwards doors are still held closed by air-pressure (and a metric shit-tonne of safeties) by having the pressure difference act on the latches in a rather clever arrangement.

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

            https://www.youtube.com/live/kGWLBLb9Pm4?si=8QcWhcws_Q1nUWdE

            NTSB found that the guides on the door plug were fractured.

            The failure occurred because the door plug translated upwards, and the stop pins disengaged from the stop fittings.

            They don't know whether the 4 bolts which exist to prevent the door plug from translating upwards were in place, they have not found the bolts.

            https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-67919436

            "Alaska Airlines says it has since found "some loose hardware" on some Max 9s.

            United said: "Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug - for example, bolts that needed additional tightening."

            --Looks like the bolts may not have been installed at all, and that it is a production issue, not a maintenance issue. Looks bad for Boeing

            1. awavey

              Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

              I'd say it was a maintenance issue too, because you've got to remember how many people will have looked at that door plug and not noticed missing bolts or that they were badly installed, whilst the door plug would have been opened and closed many times to install interior fittings and other stuff, before the aircrafts was signed off ready for its first paying service.

              That multiple instances of loose bolts are being discovered means even more eyes missed it.

              1. druck Silver badge

                Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

                The door plug is normally installed, secured and not removed subsequently. However it should be inspected before the cabin has been fitted out, and is hidden behind the interior trim.

            2. KLane
              Holmes

              Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

              Maybe look at the thread holes for shear, fractured thread debris, etc. If the bolts were forcibly pulled from them, there should be some indication there.

        2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

          Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

          You might think so, but the hole in the fuselage is specifically designed for an emergency exit, and those work better if they open outwards.

          You can Google a 737 Max (-8) doing an evacuation at Stockholm last month; it's a "Ryanair Buzz" aircraft, which sounds like a low-cost version of Ryanair but may be something different!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

            it's a "Ryanair Buzz" aircraft, which sounds like a low-cost version of Ryanair but may be something different!

            It's Ryanair's new cost-saving model. Instead of landing, they just skim past the terminal and passengers jump off. Saves on landing fees.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        Could it be related to Boeing's infamous South Carolina plant? Rumor has it that it's chaos there.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

          No, because no MAX is built in Charleston. Only the 787 is built there.

          The MAX is only built in Renton.

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

            No the MAX is assembled in Renton, the components are not ALL built there.

            B have also had issues with work adone at their spirit fab in i think it was wichita. Given the corporaate culture of slashing costs above all else, would it be a surprise that there are many other Charlestons one of which supplied parts of this plug ?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        Well, the plug design may be same old, same old 707 one on paper.

        But who's to say the undocumented MCAS was not just a part of a pattern of changing "minor" things all over the plane, and not documenting for example assembly process changes or reduction of quality checks during manufacturing, due to chasing tight schedules and bonus metrics? Now, that would really be the worst case scenario for Boeing.

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

      "There's been high demand for 737 Max aircraft and Boeing's been pumping them out without regard for other factors so it should come as no surprise that there's been shoddy workmanship and precious little checking."

      Boeing doesn't actually even manufacture the 737 fuselage themselves, the sold off the factory and outsource construction to Spirit AeroSystems.

      1. TVU Silver badge

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        "Boeing doesn't actually even manufacture the 737 fuselage themselves, the sold off the factory and outsource construction to Spirit AeroSystems".

        ^ That is an excellent example of why Boeing is in the state it is as of right now and that sell off should never have happened.

        There is market payback now in the form of Boeing shares losing 9% of their values today with Spirit AeroSystems shares losing 12% of their value as well.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        However, the plug door *is* installed by Boeing (Spirit only partially rigs it for protection during the train ride to Renton).

    3. teneriffe trail
      Pirate

      Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

      It wasn't just the McDonnell Douglas bean counter managers. It was *everybody* from MD. I was there. They came in like an infestation of rabid rodents, looking for places to build their little rats nests and steal everything they could get their paws on. They whacked the R&D budget first. Then proceeded to offshore manufacturing and engineering jobs, went to all-out war against the unions, moved headquarters to Chicago so the executives wouldn't have to suffer the wailing of the rabble, ran a ponzi scheme of buying back $20 billion in Boeing stock to fluff the lazy asses on mahogany-rows' compensation, farmed out every function they could think of that would do the most irritating damage, from finance, IT and HR to janitorial and cafeteria services to maintenance and facilities. Destroyed the pension plan and retiree benefits. Forced skilled white-collar professionals to train their replacements from Russia and India... I could go on, but, well, you name it, they fucked it up *intentionally*. To this day they are hell-bent on draining the life-blood of the heritage Boeing company. Then they will sell off the empty husk. The corruption and greed has infused itself so deeply that I don't think anything can fix it.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Nearly 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes grounded after door plug flies off mid-flight

        And this sir is the american dream.

  3. Vincent van Gopher
    Devil

    What is/was that saying?

    If it's a Boeing, I ain't going.

    1. balrog

      Re: What is/was that saying?

      BOEING; Bits Of Exit In Numerous Gardens??

      1. bazza Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: What is/was that saying?

        That is a masterpiece, especially so early in the year!

    2. zuckzuckgo

      Re: What is/was that saying?

      I think that "Booeeeeing" is the sound the door makes as it pops off.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: What is/was that saying?

        Ironic bit was that Alaskan just ran a rather jingoistic campaign that it was now a "Proudly All-American Boeing" fleet - having got rid of some Airbuses that it obtained in a merger.

  4. Flak
    Thumb Up

    16000ft iPhone drop test

    Now that is real quality!

    A candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records?

    Would like to know what terminal velocity the iPhone achieved and what kind of surface it landed on. I suspect it was not concrete or tarmac.

    1. Snapper

      Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

      I'd like the name of the protective case manufacturer!

      1. zuckzuckgo
        Coat

        Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

        How about a human sized version of that iPhone case I can wear during future Boeing flights.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

        "I'd like the name of the protective case manufacturer!"

        I suspect either Apple or the "hard case" maker will be wanting to contact the iPhones owner, offering substantial cash to take part in advertising.

    2. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

      Is that the velocity of an African or European iPhone?

    3. ragnar

      Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

      It looked like a soggy grass verge/ditch from the photo I saw.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

        Meh. Oregon in January. Anything not a building or road is guaranteed to be a wet soggy mess.

        It is actually surprising phones in airplane mode were found at all.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

          Am in Oregon (in January). Can confirm.

          When my house was built, people said the guy was daft to build it here, it'd sink. But he built it anyway. It sank. He built a second one. That sank.

          He built a third one. That caught fire, burned down, and sank. So he built a fourth one.

          That one stayed up, and I'm living in it.

    4. BebopWeBop

      Re: 16000ft iPhone drop test

      One suspects it was a pretty standard terminal velocity :-)

  5. upsidedowncreature

    It's not very typical, I'd like to make that point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For a Boeing? It's getting there.

  6. hoola Silver badge

    Numbers

    I this all the 737s that are of the same design or just a subset?

    If not then why has not every single one been grounded?

    If the design rolls back to earlier models why has not every 737 been grounded?

    Just musing but this looks like corporate wellbeing is possibly a higher priority than passenger wellbeing........

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      737-800 and 737 Max 8 use the same normal fuselage. 737-900 and 737 Max 9 use the same stretched fuselage, this one has an optional second set of emergency wing exits that are only used if a high density seating, otherwise they are plugged up like in the one in the article.

    2. Len
      Holmes

      Re: Numbers

      The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) hasn't grounded any 737s because apparently these specific types aren't used in Europe. That suggests not all 737s use this design.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      Some of them have an actual door rather than a plug to block the door frame like this one.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Numbers

        Correct. Most of them do, in fact. The door is only not installed (and replaced by the plug) if the amount of seating is below a certain threshold. Most European and Asian airlines load them up. United likes their fancy biz class up front, and so does Alaska, so the number of passengers drops to below the threshold.

        1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

          Re: Numbers

          How much money does it save, having a plug rather than an exit door? Wouldn't it still be a good idea to have *more* doors than the minimum required?

          EDIT: maybe every exit door needs to have flight crew assigned to it? But I think I'd rather have an unmanned door than no door.

  7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    "Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers,"

    That's the first item in the bingo card ticked off

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Lessons have been learned

      Thoughts and prayer can cancel this one boss, nobody died

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Won't somebody think of the..." Oh, sorry, wrong story.

        1. Zarno
          Coat

          "... lost profits!"

          Fixed it to normal Boeing java master language norms for ya.

          Mine is the one with an increasingly large list of "Do I dare book this?" notices in the pocket.

    2. teneriffe trail

      "we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our stock bonuses"

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Boeing are having a company-wide conference call on safety - that's a new one I've not had on my bingo card before.

      Strangely they also failed to use, "this has only affected a limited number of customers", given that notn everybody had the door plugs installed.

      They do seem to have used the line with the BBC that the 737 Max is the most inspected plane in history. Which is true, but only because it was initially approved because Boeing lied to the FAA about the specificiations of MCAS to get it through certification - and nobody noticed what a pisspoor system it was until after two plane crashes and several hundred deaths.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A little before this incident I came across this: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/boeing-wants-faa-to-exempt-max-7-from-safety-rules-to-get-it-in-the-air/

    1. TVU Silver badge

      ^ Thank you for pointing out that other safety issue and Boeing should not still be relying on a kludge fix that icing issue which requires the pilots to remember to manually switch off the engine anti-ice system without any hazard warning reminder.

      This matter will also be a test of the Federal Aviation Administration and its willingness to put public safety first. This time, they should stand up to Boeing and deny Boeing's request to allow a kludge fix while Boeing comes up with a proper remedy.

      1. ragnar

        Didn't they force Congress to pass a law exempting them from having to comply with a recent aviation law, something batshit insane like that? America's safety regulation system is not fit for purpose.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: American safety

          I'd say the American safety system is perfectly suited for purpose: corporations simply love the lack of oversight.

        2. bazza Silver badge

          It is Congress that has granted the exemption. The FAA seems to have been put into a position of powerlessness on this matter.

          I don't think that the US Congress quite realises what this means for Boeing's international market. Just because the US Congress has passed a law hamstringing the FAA, that has zero bearing on the UK's CAA, Europe's EASA, China's CAAC, etc. Worse, it puts overseas regulators in a real bind. They could simply roll with it and let the MAX7/10 fly. However, if anyone asks the awkward question "Please explain your thinking around the evidence that this aircraft is safe to operate over our heads", the only answer they've got is "the US Congress says Boeing don't have to do it".

          That's not really fulfilling the role of a national / regional aviation safety assurance agency. Furthermore, if anything actually went wrong the persons involved could find themselves in some personal legal / career difficulty. Especially in China.

          Properly speaking, overseas regulators should be reacting to this politically granted exemption, along the lines of determining that the USA is bullshitting everyone else on safety. That doesn't mean that US built aircraft shouldn't fly in, say, the UK. However, overseas regulators are perfecttly justified in requiring Boeing to put their new products through their full certification process instead of just taking the FAA's word for it. The danger for Boeing is that the -7 and -10 could very well become restricted to US operations only, or they're forced to do the work properly for aircraft sold overseas.

          1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

            Agree, but it would be interpreted by the US as European protectionism, favouring Airbus over Boeing, yada yada.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "America's safety regulation system is not fit for purpose."

          FTFY. As per other stories on El Reg, the big corporations are suing regulators and in Musks case even trying to claim one regulator itself is unconstitutional!

          1. bazza Silver badge

            And SpaceX's attacks on the FAA have to be taken into account abroad, too. If the FAA is brow-beaten into permitting SpaceX operations, it's other countries that are in the line of fire and potentially suffer the consequences.

            Whether or not an overseas regulator trusts the FAA or not is not for the US Congress or law courts to decide. If SpaceX's attacks on the FAA causes another regulator to decide that the FAA is toast, it could be Boeing that cops the consequences. This might be as a result of it becoming difficult for outsiders to be confident of where the political rot stops, whether it does or does not effect any one particular program. If that's what they decide, then any FAA certification becomes questionable.

            Boeing, more than any other company in the USA, really really needs the FAA to be seen as healthy and effective, otherwise it's overseas sales are off. Rather than lobbying for an exemption for the -7 and -10, they should be lobbying for SpaceX to be put in their place.

            1. awavey

              SpaceX arent attacking the FAA that's pure media hyperbole, Musk has simply been highlighting the FAA dont have the background or experience in certification of space rockets, flights or rapid test programs and their approach to treating it like just another style of aviation, unless you're Boeing, causes unnecessary delay.

              Does anyone really think the FAAs recommendation that SpaceX has education outreach projects as a launch licence consideration actually makes flying a rocket safer ?

              The whole commercial space industry, so that includes Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic not just SpaceX have testified to a Senate committee the FAA have neither the resource or flexibility to cope or keep pace with the industry

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Yes, and the FAA should force Boeing to go through improved certification, IMO. Grandfathering this in on the basis that blah-blah-blah doesn't count anymore.

  9. wolfetone Silver badge

    "Safety is our top priority"

    Is it though?

    They have had reports that the aircraft has had numerous pressurization issues. So to them the best thing to do is reset the alarm and fly it over land - instead of having a thorough investigation of the aircraft?

    I know aircraft take to the skies every minute with a few things wrong with them that either can't be fixed or would be better suited to having the airline's own mechanics fix it. Of course, nothing that is of a safety concern would take to the skies normally. If a window is cracked or an engine doesn't work, it stays put until it's fixed.

    But given this company's safety record in the past, it feels like it's top priority is money and not the safety of it's passengers. It'd be a completely different story today if some poor sod had been sucked out of that jet during the weekend. So while Boeing is getting a kicking (rightly so to be honest) do not let Alaska get away with not being scrutinized.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: "Safety is our top priority"

      Thing is that the pilots didn't reset and carry on (and this is also a reason to check the CVR recordings along with the FDR). It went pop in climb. Previous flight notes given to maintenance after flight indicated there was a problem and that maintenance was meant to look at it. That hadn't happened (yet?), and someone in scheduling decided that a quick flight over land wouldn't be a problem (the authorisation for ETOPS was withdrawn). It wasn't a problem until, well, the cork popped and now 170+ pax and crew live with the trauma of nearly having been sucked out of a door-sized hole in the fuselage. That little kid who lost his short and whose mum was quick-thinking enough to grab and hold on to him will have mental scars for life, and I would *not* be surprised if that family is going to launch a lawsuit against the airline and more importantly Boeing.

    2. Spunbearing

      Re: "Safety is our top priority"

      On DEC 24th my wife and I went on a trip to Hawaii. Wife commented how nice and new the plane was... I replied we need to put a will together, who takes care of the dog is we dont come back? I never say stuff like that.

      Super weird feeling. I checked and sure enough it was a 737- Max 9. Hard to believe I had a premonition that I was on a Boeing.

      And yes it was the plane that lost the plug. Come to think of it, it did seem a bit drafty....

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: "Safety is our top priority"

        I hate flying, I've a strong fear of it. Nothing to do with the taking off or landing or turbulence. My fear is down to a trust of the people involved in getting and keeping that aircraft in the air. Everyone from the pilot flying to not have a bad day, through to the maintenance and ground crews doing their job.

        This flight has properly triggered that fear, more for the fact the airline knew there was an issue (and now today they find a few of the planes had loose bolts). I don't know what I'd be like if I was you and had been on that flight just weeks before it popped, I don't think I could go on an aircraft again.

        For now, thankfully, I don't have to go near a plane for the foreseeable. But when I have to I'm going to make damn sure it's not a 737 MAX-9. I didn't like the idea of the MAX anyway after the two crashes but this is the cherry to that particular cake.

        1. JimC

          Re: " a trust of the people involved "

          But of course you're putting a similar level of trust on everyone around you on the road, and with even less justification.

          1. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: " a trust of the people involved "

            > But of course you're putting a similar level of trust on everyone around you on the road, and with even less justification.

            The other drivers are not maintaining your vehicle and they are also in the same boat in that they would probably rather not be in an accident as well.

            The justification is that we all pretty much have the same self-interest in not dying which is why there are not more accidents on the road than there are (albeit that the accident rate is unacceptably high for other reasons).

            I think it is high time we made all ground crew and management take the maiden flight on any aircraft that they have worked on. Might tend to focus them somewhat.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    She called it "a concern"

    Yeah, having your passengers sucked out of the plane just like in every airplane catastrophe film is indeed a concern.

    That is what Boeing is now, the groundwork for the scenarios of future flight accident films.

    Thank God I don't need to take the plane anymore. TGV fills my travel needs nicely, thank you very much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: She called it "a concern"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_TGV_accidents

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: She called it "a concern"

        If I'm going to be in accident, I would always prefer it not to be 45,000 ft in the air.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: She called it "a concern"

          I would always prefer it not to be 45,000 ft in the air.

          Or stuck in a concrete tube 100m under the sea..

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: She called it "a concern"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_Boeing_737

      3. Francis Boyle

        So let me get this right

        In 43 years exactly one fare-paying passenger has been killed in a TGV accident. Not exactly a great argument for going by air.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: She called it "a concern"

      It's a concern that the passengers got a free panoramic window seat upgrade without paying for it

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: She called it "a concern"

        Well, at least one of them lost the shirt off their back, so not quite a free upgrade.

      2. R Soul Silver badge

        Re: She called it "a concern"

        SSHH! You're giving Ryanair a new way to rip off their customers^wvictims!

  11. Sparkus

    Alaska Airlines

    and their approach to pilot reports and maintenance is looking to be the 'cause' here.

    It's being reported that the automated aircraft systems and the pilots themselves reported pressurization problems on recent flights. The a/c itself was restricted from over-water flights while the airline was cycling it in for a heavier maintenance check.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Alaska Airlines

      I used to have a car that I didn't trust to go on long trips.

      Of course I wasn't flying 200 people at 40,000ft at 600mph - but I'm obviously not the sort of go-getter that Alaskan look for

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Alaska Airlines

      Small leaks are not that rare and are quite hard to locate, they are also usually not an issue. If you ever fly on older planes outside of the west you might spot some holes in the plane where cracks have been drilled out to stop them propagating.

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Cockpit voice recorder

    This seems to be a bit of red herring.

    It's not clear what the pilots could have been saying or doing to cause this.

    If they were hoping for a "hey what does this 'door eject' button do" ? to absolve Boeing - I suspect they were likely to get a lot more "what the BLEEEP", followed by a lot of wind noise

    1. Anonymous Cowpilot

      Re: Cockpit voice recorder

      Given reports say that P2's headset was ripped out of the socket and sucked into the cabin it probably goes something like:

      P1: "white with no sugar please"

      P2: "hey, that pressurization warning is on again"

      P1: "ok, I will get the checklist out, you have con..."

      <whoosh>

      <crackle buzz> (as the headset gets ripped out of the scoket)

      P1: I have control

      P1: I can't hear you and I assume you can't hear me, I'm going to turn back and declare an emergency

      <rest of communication done by pointing and gesturing>

      More seriously they probably want to know if the pilots noticed a pressurization warning some period of time before the depressurization incident. They will know if the warning was made but knowing if the pilots noticed and understood it is important in preventing such incidents in future. The time between a warning being issued by the aircraft, the pilots noticing it and then the pilots working out what to do about it can often be a factor, and redesigning warnings, giving them earlier or having clearer checklists for what to do with a specific warning can often be outcomes of these types of investigations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cockpit voice recorder

        But if the full transcript was available you would have heard the pilot and copilot greeting each other at the start of the flight.

        P1 : Good evening - I don't think we've met - I'm Clarence Oveur

        P2: Pleased to meet you, my name is Michael Caine

        Anon obviously - but thankful that the outcome was not a whole lot more tragic.

    2. 142

      Re: Cockpit voice recorder

      They don't want the CVR to establish the cause, but rather they're concerned because they suspect (based on testimony so far from the pilots and flight attendants) that severe in-plane communication breakdowns occurred due to the noise and chaos, that may have led to additional potentially dangerous situations if the incident was subtly different.

      The tapes would allow them to analyse the nature of the comms, and develop recommendations for procedure changes in these scenarios, etc.

  13. BebopWeBop
    Facepalm

    Units of worry

    The passengers had a right to be concerned.

    No shit Sherlock!

  14. David Glasgow

    When is a door

    Not a door...?

    When it's a plug.

    1. Francis Boyle

      Re: When is a door

      When you need a spanner to open it?

      Or more importantly in this case to keep it shut

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When is a door not a door?

      When it’s a garden ornament?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    United finds at least five aircraft with loose bolts on plug doors, according to The Air Current

    https://theaircurrent.com/feed/dispatches/united-finds-loose-bolts-on-plug-doors-during-737-max-9-inspections/

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Jon, together with Dom Gates from the Seattle Times, is all over this story. The safety stuff (like this incident) is always free, but this is high quality aerospace journalism. :-)

    3. EBG

      interesting

      ..that there are multiple items that they have found to be loose - not just a specific bolt !!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looking like it is more 'Corner Cutting' by Boeing or its contractors !!!

    This is more than 'bad luck' it is getting to be 'negligence' !!!

    :(

  17. Orv Silver badge

    Alaska will now be charging extra to NOT sit in an exit row.

  18. t245t Silver badge
    Terminator

    Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

    Not just the door plug. It looks to me like the entire cabin door blew off. The door being unused and sealed to look like a window. The story about the flight-recorder data not being preserved because the pilot “forgot” to pull a circuit breaker being highly specious.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

      I find the CVR/FDR recorder thing very odd too. Standard procedure should have been to secure the data and why on earth do US planes only need to keep 2hrs? Everyone else on the planet stores much more and airlines like BA have secondary 'quick access' recorders that record more data channels and more frequently than the stock FDR.

      Also from looking at all the pics this isn't a plug door. Its held in by the hinges at the bottom, the rails at the top and 6 'pads' down each side.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

        I think the 2 hours is left over from when the data recorder used a magnetic tape loop (of two hours) which just cycled round re-recording continuously. The recording stopped when the power was removed (either by catastrophic event or by being switched off). If I recall correctly, several years ago solid state data recorders were approved and now the recording time is effectively unlimited and therefore set to 25 hours for most of the world - enough time for the longest flight and to remember to turn it off afterwards. So, yes, the US really does need to catch up on this - it's not new technology and it's widely available.

        In this case it's not clear what the "correct" thing to do would have been though - ignoring what the actual rules are and whether they followed them - given the two hour limit. Switch it off to retain the recordings of the initial incident but then lose all recording of any further incident while returning/landing/etc. ? Or leave it on so that you are capturing the riskier part of any flight, the landing (which is presumably a bit more risky in this case) but lose the data from the initial incident?

        Tricky one.

        I'd probably go for the latter on the basis that you survived the first incident and will be able to provide eye-witness accounts and the recorded radio traffic to ATC, and the recorder would then remain operational in case there was a catastrophic event later on during e.g. landing with an unexpected hole in the side...

        (but I'm not a pilot nor do I have any relevant qualifications or experience on this!)

        1. awavey

          Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

          I thought I read that pilots unions werent happy with the idea of the CVR, the spy in the cockpit listening to all their chat, and so the 2hr limit might be born from original technical limitations, but isnt changing in the US anytime soon.

          Arguably it doesnt need the 2hr extending, just needs a simple write protect flag linked to the on board systems that automatically preserves data in cases of emergency.

        2. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

          I think the relevant question is probably "what does the checklist tell them to do?" In an emergency that's what they're going to follow. No one is going to stop in the middle of limping a damaged aircraft back to the runway and think, "wait, should we pull the CVR breaker?" The CVR is mostly intended to cover incidents where the flight crew is no longer alive to be interviewed, so the last couple hours before the recorder loses power are usually plenty.

          I'm also reminded of FedEx Express 705, where a dead-heading crew member attacked the flight crew with a hammer. He actually pulled the CVR breaker before takeoff hoping the cause of the crash wouldn't be determined, but the flight engineer noticed the breaker and turned it back on, thinking it had been forgotten in the pre-flight check.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

        It's not a plug door because it isn't one. It's a plug. It's installed and fixed in place by bolts.

      3. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

        Airlines and manufacturers dont exactly want MORE evidence if something goes wrong because of liabilities.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

      No, that is a PLUG. A cabin door doesn't 'blow off', certainly not on a 737. A door is not 'unused and sealed to look like a window'. It's a PLUG. That's the point of a PLUG. It, as the name implies, PLUGS the door frame without the need for a door. JFC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Door plug flies off mid-flight ö

        Ironically, assuming at least that this reddit post is to be believed, the plug door is actually a modified emergency door!

        https://www.reddit.com/r/aviation/comments/191llbg/diagram_of_a_boeing_7379_midcabin_door_plug_and/?rdt=51226

        And, potentially this is the cause of the incident - that, fundamentally, it _is_ designed to open but that this has been prevented to convert it to a plug and those prevention measures were insufficient...

  19. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    Apparently

    The phones both survived because they were in “flight” mode.

  20. MJI Silver badge

    Airbus time?

    Looks best to not buy (airlines) or fly (passengers) anything post merger Boeing.

  21. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Who cares about travellers, can someone please think of the bonuses for the CEO ?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like