back to article Travel app Kayak offers Boeing 737 Max 9 filter after that door plug drama

On Sunday, the US Federal Aviation Administration recommended that air carriers operating Boeing 737-900ER aircraft conduct a visual inspection of mid-exit door plugs to be certain that doors on the aircraft are attached properly. Though not one of the Boeing MAX 9 planes grounded by the FAA earlier this month after Alaska …

  1. steviebuk Silver badge

    When a company

    Puts profits over safety cause "we just have to rush these inspections through for money".

    Engineer Dave "But I can't get it done quicker. We need to do the checks properly"

    Manager "If you can't, I'll replace you with someone who can"

    This appears to the mentality of businesses these days. More senior management need to go to jail.

    Having said that on an air crash investigate episode the cockpit window blew out and sucked the pilot half out and knocked him out. He lived. When they did all their checks they discovered the bolts for the window were wrong. The engineer, instead of referring to the spec manual they are supposed to (could this be due to being rushed?) he replaced with the bolts that were currently on the window that were already wrong from another engineer.

    1. Jon 37

      Re: When a company

      That window case was shocking.

      The supplies person knew what bolts were needed, and told the engineer. But the engineer wanted bolts that matched what he'd taken out of the aircraft. The bolts he'd removed were a size too small, but by luck had happened to work. The engineer accidentally picked up bolts that were a further size smaller, thinking they were the same. They weren't, and promptly failed on the next flight.

      The senior maintenance engineer was rushed to achieve production targets at the repair organisation.

      He never took the time to check the manufacturers instructions for performing any work. It didn't help that finding the instructions would have been a long and complicated process involving checking lots of paperwork to see if there had been changes to the procedure that had not been applied to the main instruction book yet. He considered "not looking up the instructions" to be normal.

      He also couldn't see his work area well because of how the plane was parked. Again, getting it moved would have meant a long delay, the staff needed to do that were not working the night shift.

      He was also "trying out" a different, unapproved torque wrench, so did not realise he hadn't tightened any of the bolts properly (because they would not tighten, they were just turning in the hole).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When a company

        Even more shocking that the window was bolted on from the outside, instead of the inside where air pressure would hold it in place. Same issue with the max 9 door plug. Emergency exits open inwards and are held in place by air pressure while in flight. Door plugs replacing emergency exits should be the same.

        1. t245t Silver badge

          Re: When a company

          >> That window case was shocking

          > Even more shocking that the window was bolted on from the outside

          So that they could save the time and money when attaching them on the inside.

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: When a company

            A window pane is an item that will need regular replacement as scratches accumulate. A window installed as a plug from the inside may require disassembly of numerous items of cockpit paneling.

            Threaded connections are a well known engineering solution, which you personally trust your life with continuously as you go through your day.

            Unnecessary removal and installation of additional components introduce the risk of further errors being made. It is not ALL about the money. The best repair is the one that did not need to be made.

            Do NOT take tv shows that try to gain viewers by faking outrage as your primary source for what is right and what is wrong in this world. That is how we ended up with Trump and Boris.

        2. teneriffe trail

          Re: When a company

          When looking at that door plug design, I can understand *how* it is supposed to work. What I cannot understand is *why*.

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: When a company

            The door plug design emulates the door design that it replaces, just without all the heavy hardware required for opening and closing the door. The door and the plug has been functioning properly for longer than I have lived. As far as I know, the issue was not the plug, but the proper installation and inspection thereof.

            Management engineering hits again!

            1. t245t Silver badge

              Re: When a company

              > Management engineering hits again!

              Just weld the fricken door shut!

          2. Danny 14

            Re: When a company

            the why is down to type approval. The airframe was approved but there are various specifications. The door plug is a non opening door. It was fitted incorrectly.

            1. teneriffe trail

              Re: When a company

              Personally, if I wanted a truly non-opening door, I would just use about a thousand rivets. :)

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: When a company

                Personally, if I wanted a truly non-opening door, I would just use about a thousand rivets. :)

                The problem with that is when you want to put the exit back again.

                The exit isn't needed if the plane is carrying fewer than 200 passengers. Which can easily be changed by moving some seats around. I believe it's because some carriers have quite big first/business class sections - and others don't. Therefore you may need to be able to re-instate the door for the next owner of the aircraft.

        3. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: When a company

          The over wing exits on a 737 open outwards.

          I think on the DC9/MD80 (its been a while since I flew on one) the over wing exits do open inwards as the instructions tell you to dump it on the row of seats infront/behind after opening.

          Also I think the older 737s had inward opening over wing exits as this was cited in the Manchester disaster as a contributing factor to the horrific outcome.

          Very few plane doors are true plugs these days. The 737 fake door in question relies on the 4 pins and 12 'pads' to hold it in place. The outer skin of the fake door overlaps the skin of the aircraft from the outside.

      2. teneriffe trail

        Re: When a company

        That is scary!

      3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: When a company

        The aviation industry works on a principle whereby incidents are investigated and causes identified so that similar incidents can be avoided in future. If the cause of this incident is down to use of incorrect size bolts then this is worrying because I'm sure there was an incident many years ago where a window (cockpit windscreen?) parted company with the aircraft mid-flight due to being "fixed" in place with incorrect size bolts. Whatever procedures were put in place as a result of that incident don't seem to have been observed here.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: When a company

          Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese,

          I'm pretty sure he's talking about the same incident you remember. Which was a British Airways flight, about 20 years ago. It's a completely different thing to what happened to the Boeing over Alaska.

          In the case of Boeing it looks like shortcuts in manufacturing process. They've not been fixing these door plugs properly in place, and therefore also not doing the full QA that should be part of the manufacturing process of any airline. Not that they were using the wrong bolts, but that they weren't doing the bolts up at all - or if they were only hand tightening them or something.

          I'm also pretty sure the OP slightly mis-remembered the case of the BA accident. From my memory it was a middle-of-the-night windscreen change / repair. At 3am the maintainer went to the parts store - and was correctly told by the guy in charge which bolts he would need. Whereas he was trying to measure his existing ones by eye - rather than going to the manual and looking it up (having already binned the old bolts - which would have been correct procedure).

          However that parts store didn't have enough bolts anyway. So he went on an early morning parts raid. To several hangars round the airfield, raiding stores for bolts. And again, measuring by eye.

          From memory there were something like 20-30 bolts securing that window. And they found some of the old ones in the bin, and realised that the plane had already been flying with some that were too small. It's just that sufficient were of the correct size that they'd held the window in. Which means he was probably comparing one of the wrong type. I think he'd also forgotten his reading glasses that day - possibly another reason not to look it up in the big book of bits. So he put the smaller size on, bye-bye window.

          The accident report blamed management. For making the process to get parts difficult, and not giving enough to time to get the work done. They couldn't claim that this was just one bloke doing a bad job, from the fact that the previous engineer had also used some of the wrong bolts.

    2. Robin

      Re: When a company

      That cockpit window was featured in an episode of Cautionary Tales. Interesting podcast series, worth subscribing.

    3. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: When a company

      this was the incident

      this was the episode

      vid may be on youtube

  2. Joe Dietz

    Its not just the door plugs...

    It's obvious Boeing is culturally bankrupt. It's not just the MAX fiasco. And the door plug was one week after a previous 'ground them all' inspection where there where loose bolts on a safety critical system in the tail assembly. This shit should be checked and rechecked... probably IS being checked and rechecked and it's still wrong.

    The Starliner program has also had some serious issues. And not just the ones on flight hardware where it didn't quite make it to orbit. They managed to also take _checkout photos_ to document the state of the parachutes on a drop test that clearly showed one of the parachutes was NOT connected to the airframe... and somebody then proceeded to pack the parachutes in that state. I'm sure they are ISO compliant in more ways that I could even imagine... but compliant isn't the same thing as giving a damn about quality. I mean good news! 2 out of the 3 parachutes opened, good thing for redundancy... but wow, they had _photos_.

  3. cosymart

    Quailty Is Not ISO9000

    ISO9000 is about consistency, doing it the same way every time so if you don't get the process and quality right and document that then you make the same shit product every time :-(

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Quailty Is Not ISO9000

      And, even if your process and documentation are right ISO9000 doesn't prove you actually follow it.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Quailty Is Not ISO9000

      Unfortunately ISO9000 just shows you can tick boxes, not if you can actually do the work

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quailty Is Not ISO9000


      (a) Built product: Yes / No

      (b) Deliver product: Yes / No


      (a) Built product: Yes / No

      (b) Test product: Yes / No

      (c) Address defects and confirm fixed: Yes / No

      (d) Deliver product: Yes / No

      ...are both ISO9000 compliant, but the first example has much more potential for getting people killed if the product is an aircraft

  4. usbac Silver badge

    The bigger question

    If they are already finding bolts loose or improperly installed on the plug doors on other aircraft, and with the loose bolts in the tail assembly from a couple of weeks ago, should any of the airframes coming out of Boeing be trusted?

    I think at this point, every aircraft that came out of Boeing in the last few years needs to be completely disassembled and put back together with proper inspections this time. They need to ground all Boeing products until they can be completely inspected inside out.

    1. GoneFission

      Re: The bigger question

      Would be nice if they could force Boeing execs to travel on every non-remediated plane scheduled for regular operation until the problem is fixed. I guarantee you none of them use anything but extensively maintained private jet fleets.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: The bigger question

      I think at this point, every aircraft that came out of Boeing in the last few years needs to be completely disassembled and put back together with proper inspections this time.

      Given Boeing's track record, I think it'd be a case of disassembling all aircraft , putting all aircraft put back together, and then selling all of the spare bits they have left over at the end.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The bigger question

      There was a story on the BBC last week that Ryanair had been asked by Boeing to send more quality control inspectors to it's 737 MAX factory in order to assist with production. It was a very brief ariticle that asked a hell of a lot more questions than it answered. Why do they need more? Well I guess that bit is obvious. Because Boeing are clearly currently shit at making planes. But why would Ryanair want to pay for more? Why are Ryanair buying Boeing at all, if they feel so unsure about the safety of the product that they feel the need to send their own QA people? What the hell are Boeing playing at?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The bigger question

        Ryanair's existing Boeing 737 fleet is huge. All their systems and maintenance are based around Boeing, so Ryanair are stuck with them.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: The bigger question

          I'm sure that's true. It would cost a lot, and take a long time, for Ryanair to switch away from Boeing. And I'm sure it's lovely and cheap to only maintain one fleet. Although I've read that Boeing had to offer some pretty deep discounts in order to save sales of the 737 MAX - and I suspect that's when Ryanair insisted on a bit of QA - to try and stop Boeing cutting corners.

          There must be a point, when switiching starts to look really attractive. But then Ryanair have a very modern fleet, and I don't think Airbus can make A320 Neo's fast enough for their existing customers. Let alone cope with refugees from Boeing.

  5. t245t Silver badge

    Have they never heard of flanges

    Have they never heard of flanges. So even if the bolts fail the differential pressure would keep the door firmly plugged into the doorway..

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: Have they never heard of flanges

      If I understand it correctly, the door plug has flanges top and bottom. In order to be able to open the original door outwards (and so not have it obstruct the emergency exit) continuous sideways flanges could not be installen. To open: lift or lower until one flange disengages and rotate around the still engeged flange. The bolts were not carrying the cabin pressure, they prevented the door from shifting away from the load carrying position. With no bolts installed, the door could shift as the aircraft bounced around on the taxiway.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Have they never heard of flanges

        I believe you speak the truth. The Mentour channel on YouTube had a good video on this, with some explanatory diagrams and whatnot....worth a watch

    2. Danny 14

      Re: Have they never heard of flanges

      these are not just static plugs, they have full guide tracks, pins but are secured by bolts. They are mostly doors but without the ability to open, no mechanisms etc. The design of the door framing cannot be changed as this is the approved airframe.

      The worry is if the natural vibration loosened the bolts allowing the door plug to "open"

  6. sanmigueelbeer

    Boeing's CEO is a Trained Accountant - but Airbus's CEO is an Aeronautical Engineer

    Boeing's decision to hire a trained accountant as its CEO - while rival Airbus's boss is an aeronautical engineer

    The Journal reported that unlike Calhoun, who mainly works from home and only appears in the office twice a month, Faury regularly works from Airbus's European headquarters.

    I think this says it all.

  7. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

    Not only but also ...

    Investigation report on a B777 where both pilots inputted to controls, the plane did the average of the two, pilots wondered what was going on, nothing in the manuals.

    See here

  8. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward Bronze badge

    Money talks.

    Shortcuts makes more money, until things goes phut.

  9. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Fly your own dogfood

    How did Calhoun get to Kansas? Did he fly Airbus?

    (Yes, I've heard of the girl who traveled from Kansas in a house on a tornado)

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