Press Release

Welch Joins Markey and Vance in Demanding Answers from Boeing CEO Following 737 Max 9 Door Blowout

Jan 11, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) joined SensEdward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and JD Vance (R-Ohio), today in demanding answers from Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun about the company’s manufacturing quality control, oversight of contractors, and communications after an Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737 Max 9 door plug blew off the side of the airplane on Jan. 5th while the plane was flying at 16,000 feet, with 177 passengers and crew onboard. Within a day, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all 737 Max 9 planes. Subsequently, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines inspection crews found that some of their Max 9 aircraft had loose bolts that hold the door plug in place. All three Senators serve on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. 

In their letter, Senators Welch, Markey, and Vance urge Boeing to cooperate fully with the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) ongoing investigation into the incident and called for the Max 9 fleet to remain grounded until they are fully safe to return to the skies.  

In their letter to CEO Calhoun, the Senators wrote, “Although we are grateful that nobody was seriously harmed, this incident still posed an extreme danger for everyone onboard. Had the door plug blown out of the plane at 33,000 feet — and not 16,000 feet — the outcome likely would have been much worse.”   

The Senators continued, “Boeing’s quality assurance process appears to have been unable to identify the loose bolts — a serious oversight. Even more concerning, Boeing contracts the manufacture and installation of door plugs to Spirit AeroSystems, raising questions about not only Boeing’s internal quality control, but also its oversight of its contractors.”  

The Senators requested answers to the following questions about Boeing’s quality control procedures by January 18:  

  1. What steps is Boeing taking to provide swift and comprehensive guidance to air carriers conducting safety inspections of 737 Max 9 aircraft? 
  2. Why did Boeing pull back its initial Multi Operator Message to air carriers? 
  3. What steps is Boeing taking to identify any safety concerns in its supply chain and manufacturing processes that may have contributed to loose bolts? 
  4. Is Boeing assessing its oversight of the role a contractor, Spirit AeroSystems, plays in constructing and installing door plugs? 
  5. Was Boeing Board of Director’s Aerospace Safety Committee aware of any problems with Spirit AeroSystems’ production quality? If so, what actions has it taken to resolve those issues? 

Read the full text of the letter here