What happened to Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9?
On Jan. 5, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 experienced a mid-flight emergency when a cabin exit door plug blew out, creating a hole in the fuselage. The incident occurred shortly after takeoff from Oregon, at approximately 16,000 feet, leading to cabin depressurization. The flight, bound for Ontario, California, made an emergency landing in Portland without any fatalities or serious injuries, although some minor injuries were reported.
Following this incident, the FAA grounded all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes and launched an investigation into Boeing's manufacturing processes. They also announced an audit of the production line and suppliers. This event marks the first significant in-flight safety issue for Boeing since the two fatal 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019.
According to an exclusive NBC News report on Jan. 23, Ben Minicucci, the CEO of Alaska Airlines, revealed the outcome of an in-house inspection of multiple Boeing 737's — including the fact that "many" of the aircraft had loose bolts.
“I’m more than frustrated and disappointed,” he told NBC News. “I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people."
As a former investor of the company, O’Leary expressed his frustration over the incident, “At some point, you have to look at the management and say, wait a second, why does this keep happening? Why is the entire fleet grounded yet again?”
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A ‘very complicated’ issue
O’Leary emphasized the complexity of the problem and indicated that Boeing’s management team will be under mounting pressure, especially following the news this week that both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines may abandon future plans for more Boeing 737 Max jets.
“This is a very complicated engineering and supply chain issue in building these remarkable aircraft, which by the way, the safety factor is still the safest way to travel,” O'Leary said, adding that he feels “very sorry” for the company’s executive team.
At the time of this writing, Boeing’s share price had dropped more than 15% since the Jan. 5 incident.
O’Leary, who is no longer a shareholder, shared his view on the stock: “I don't own the stock anymore because I know in the next nine months, we'll get another event like this, and unfortunately, it really hurts the stock price and it slows down the advancement.”
On Jan. 6, Boeing released a statement acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and supporting the FAA’s decision.
“We agree with and fully support the FAA's decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane. In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB's investigation into the Jan. 5 accident. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers,” the airplane manufacturer said.
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