NTSB Briefing: Flight 1282 Accident Investigation Begins
Boeing Industry Safety

NTSB Briefing: Flight 1282 Accident Investigation Begins

N979AK, Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX @KSEA. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

DALLAS — National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy held a briefing for the media in Portland, Oregon, at 22:00 local time on the NTSB investigation involving Alaska Airlines (AS) Flight 1282.

The deactivated emergency exit door blowout event is not an incident but an accident, as per the NTSB definition. The NTSB chair introduced Senior Aircraft Accident Investigator John Lovell as the lead investigator and explained the role of the NTSB.

Homendy described the accident as follows: it was the left mid-cabin door that departed the aircraft, which was delivered to AS on November 11, 2023. The mid-door door plug follows the 189-passenger threshold.

The reason why this plane did not come with a door that was not operational was because Boeing configured the aircraft at the customer’s request “to provide more comfort for the passengers,” said the NTSB Chair. A lower number of seats means more room. The airline did not need an emergency exit at that location on that aircraft, and therefore Boeing deactivated or “plugged” it.

Homendy briefly stated that the first pilot was flying at the time, adding that there were no serious injuries, but there were minor ones, including psychological ones.

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NTSB “Party Process”

NTSB arrived in Portland at 3:12 p.m. PST to see the aircraft inside and out. An organizational meeting proceeded to plan and designate the parties for the fact-finding phase of the investigation, or a “Party Process,” that is, bringing technical experts that have access to factual information. They help gather said information with the goal of NTBS doing the final analysis, developing the findings and the probable cause, and issuing the safety recommendations.

Parties include:

  • FAA
  • Boeing
  • AS
  • APA
  • AFA

Technical experts from the NTBS include the following fields:

  • Flight operations
  • Survival factors and cabin safety
  • Structures
  • Aircraft systems, including pressurization systems
  • Metallurgists
  • Meteorologists and ATC team
  • Recorder team

The NTSB Chair announced that tomorrow, Sunday, is the first full day of investigation. Today, Saturday, was for arriving on the scene and for planning. The NTSB does not have information regarding manufacturing design and repair but will have a press briefing tomorrow and in the days ahead.

Image: Google Maps

Comments on US Aviation Safety, Location of Missing Door

NTSB Chair’s statement on safety: “We have the safest aviation system in the world. It is incredibly safe. We are the global gold standard for safety around the world, but we have to maintain that standard. We are very, very fortunate here that this didn’t end up in something more tragic. No one was seated in 26 A and B, where that door plug is.”

Homendy confirmed that the AS Boeing 737-9 was only 10 minutes out from the airport when the door blew. The Boeing 737-9 was at 1600 feet; therefore, it was not at cruise speed, the flight phase when passengers could freely walk about the aircraft.

She commended the Port of Portland police department and fire department. She also thanked the FBI, which is helping with equipment to locate the door and components that came off the aircraft during the flight.

From looking at radar data, the NTSB believes that the door is around Barns Road, near I-217 in the Cedars Hills neighborhood, urging the public to contact local law enforcement and witness@ntsb.gov. The NTSB is also looking for photos and videos from inside the aircraft.

The Chair stated that the FAA and airlines would probably provide a timeframe for how long the Boeing 737-9 MAX inspections will take, not the NTSB.

State of the Aircraft, Investigation

Homendy described that seats 26A and 25A’s headrests were gone. On 26A, part of the back of the seat was also missing. There were some clothing items in the area. Additionally, the stop portions of the doors are still intact on the door. NTSB will compare the right door to the left blow-out door.

She also said the NTSB’s investigation could be very broad; “nothing is excluded,” but they can also hone into certain areas as the investigation moves on. The NTSB cannot say anything regarding the aircraft’s certification at this time.

There is still no information as to the cause of the blowout, but NTSB investigators will look at the maintenance records and any repairs, even though the aircraft is brand new. They will also look at the pressurization system, the door itself, and the components around the door, like the stop fittings and hinges.

They will also want to know about training and qualifications, as well as the safety briefings that were provided and what occurred during the accident scenario itself concerning emergency operations and egress, among other things.

John Lovell represented the U.S. in Ethiopia in the Boeing 737 MAX crash investigation there. His impression of the AS Flight 1282 accident was that he was very grateful that it occurred during a phase of the flight when “it was not more catastrophic.”

This is a developing story.

Featured image: N979AK, Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX @KSEA. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

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