On Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun engaged in discussions with multiple U.S. senators at Capitol Hill, as increased attention and scrutiny were directed towards the company’s leadership. The focus of concern revolved around a blown door plug incident on one of Boeing’s 737 Max 9 aircraft.
“I am present today with a commitment to transparency, aiming to address all their inquiries, as there are numerous questions,” Calhoun informed reporters. The meetings were arranged upon Calhoun’s initiative, as confirmed by individuals familiar with the situation.
Following an incident on January 5, where a door plug blew out during the ascent of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, a recently acquired 737 Max 9 departing from Portland, Oregon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a grounding of the planes. The force of the event was so severe that it led to the expulsion of headrests and seatbacks, posing a serious risk to passengers. Currently, the FAA is in the process of examining data from 40 preliminary inspections of the planes. Once this evaluation is complete, the FAA can then authorize safety review instructions, paving the way for the planes to resume service.
“We’ve refrained from attempting to predict the duration of this process because it has proven to be challenging,” stated FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. “However, as soon as we resolve it, the planes will be back in operation.” Following his meeting with Calhoun, Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, informed reporters that the Senate is exploring the inclusion of measures addressing airline safety in the FAA reauthorization bill.
“Ensuring aviation safety requires a proactive approach, not a reactive one. That’s why it’s crucial to finalize this FAA reauthorization,” emphasized Sullivan. The Seattle Times revealed earlier on Wednesday that the fuselage panel, responsible for the incident during the Alaska Airlines flight, was manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems. The panel had been removed for repairs and was improperly reinstalled by Boeing’s mechanics, rather than those from Spirit.
On Wednesday, Calhoun and Boeing refrained from commenting on the report, citing an ongoing federal investigation. Boeing stated in a response to The Seattle Times report, “As the air safety agency responsible for investigating this accident, only the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board can release information about the investigation. As a party to this investigation, Boeing is not able to comment and will refer you to the NTSB for any information.”
The NTSB did not promptly respond to a comment request. Spirit AeroSystems saw a 6% increase in shares by midday on Wednesday, influenced by the mentioned report. The stock has experienced a decrease of over 10% since the Alaska Airlines incident on January 5. Boeing’s stock was trading approximately 2% higher on Wednesday but has witnessed a decline of more than 10% since the incident.