Alaska Airlines CEO says company found loose bolts on ‘many’ Boeing Max 9s

Alaska Airlines CEO says company found loose bolts on ‘many’ Boeing Max 9s
Alaska Airlines CEO says company found loose bolts on ‘many’ Boeing Max 9s

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci revealed the carrier found “some loose bolts on many” Boeing 737 Max 9s in an interview for “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” on Tuesday.

It was the CEO’s first interview since a door plug on one of its Max 9 airplanes shot out from the side of the fuselage only a few minutes into a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.

“I’m more than frustrated and disappointed. I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people,” Minicucci said, according to excerpts released ahead of the interview’s airing.

“Boeing is better than this. Flight 1282 should never have happened,” Minicucci said during the interview.

Boeing’s 737 factory will have what the company calls a “quality stand down” at its Renton, Washington facility Thursday, the company announced Tuesday.

“During the session, production, delivery and support teams will pause for a day so employees can take part in working sessions focused on quality. This is part of the immediate quality actions recently shared by Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal,” the company said in a statement.

The internal notice Boeing sent to its employees indicates that the 737 stand down is the first of several that it will hold at its facilities.

NBC asked Minicucci if Boeing has a problem with quality control extending beyond a single plane.

“I think this is the issue that’s at question right here, which is what is Boeing going to do differently on their quality program, to make sure that when we get an airplane, it’s at the highest degree of excellence and that’s what’s got to be different going forward,” he said.

He added that the company is adding its own extra oversight on the airplane maker’s production line.

The US Federal Aviation Administration urged airlines on Sunday to inspect so-called door plugs on an earlier version of Boeing 737 airplanes. After recent inspections of the newer Max 9s, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have found loose bolts.

FAA opened a formal investigation into Boeing’s quality control around two weeks ago. The agency said it continued to review data collected from inspections of 40 sample aircraft as it considered how to determine if the planes were safe to fly again.

Minicucci noted in the interview that the inspections take about 10 hours per door.

In a statement, Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “We have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers. We are taking action on a comprehensive plan to bring these airplanes safely back to service and to improve our quality and delivery performance. We will follow the lead of the FAA and support our customers every step of the way.”

The CEO of United Airlines, one of the biggest buyers of Boeing jets, also expressed frustration with the company.

“I’m disappointed that... this keeps happening at Boeing. This isn’t new,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United, in an interview Tuesday on CNBC. “We need Boeing to succeed. But they’ve been having these consistent manufacturing challenges. They need to take action here.”

NBC said Minicucci told the network Alaska Airlines would continue to fly an all-Boeing fleet.

In contrast, United appeared more unsure about its relationship with Boeing.

United has 79 of the Max 9s, more than any other airline, and had originally scheduled nearly 8,000 flights with the plane for this month before the incident, according to Cirium, an aviation analytics firm. Boeing’s future is uncertain regarding orders for the 737 Max 10, a newer, larger version and more expensive version of the 737 Max that has yet to be certified by the FAA.

“I think the Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” said Kirby. “We’re going to build a plan that doesn’t have the Max 10 in it.” — CNN

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