Criminal investigation into Boeing panel blowout widens

The Justice Department is sending subpoenas and appealing to a recently convened grand jury in Seattle to expand a criminal investigation into the door jam that blew up a Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner in January, a judge said Friday. person close to the file.

The detachment of the fuselage panel of an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after takeoff terrified passengers at 16,000 feet and required an emergency landing at Portland International Airport, Oregon. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that four bolts intended to hold the door stopper in place were missing before the panel exploded.

This month it was reported that the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation of Boeing, which reinstalled the door plug during maintenance in Renton, Washington, before delivering the plane to Alaska Airlines in October.

Subpoenas and use of the grand jury were reported earlier Friday by Bloomberg.

The Jan. 5 in-flight incident led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground more than 170 Max 9 planes, which were then inspected for construction defects. Boeing said it agreed with the FAA's decision and pledged to cooperate. The company said safety is its top priority.

The Max 9s have since resumed flights, but questions remain about the malfunction. A grand jury could be asked to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. One priority would likely be the repair of the Alaska Airlines plane's rivets, which are often used to assemble and secure plane parts, by workers at Boeing's Renton factory.

The episode led to a new round of scrutiny on Boeing. The company made headlines in 2018 and 2019 when two crashes of another 737 model, the Max 8, killed 346 people. A maximum of 8 planes remained grounded for almost two years. The company then spent more than $2.5 billion to settle a criminal charge that Boeing defrauded the FAA, and the company's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, was fired.

Under his replacement, Dave Calhoun, Boeing shares rose, even as the company struggled to meet airline demands. Production of the 737 Max fell to about half of Boeing's stated goals last year as the company grappled with supply chain issues with its key suppliers and fuselage problems.

Today, the company faces much greater challenges. Two days after the door jam incident, Mr. Calhoun sent a memo to employees stating that “while we have made progress in strengthening our safety management and quality control systems and processes at Over the past few years, situations like this remind us that we must stay focused on continuing to improve every day.

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