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Boeing CEO bizarrely calls Alaska Airlines plane door blowout a ‘quality escape’

‘We’re going to want to know what broke down in our gauntlet of inspections, what broke down in the original work, that allowed for that escape to happen,’ Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said.

Julia Reinstein
Friday 12 January 2024 11:22 GMT
Boeing boss admits mistake over Alaska Airlines plane door blow-out

Days after part of an Alaska Airlines plane blew off mid-flight, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun blamed the incident on what he called a “quality escape.”

“We’re going to want to know what broke down in our gauntlet of inspections, what broke down in the original work, that allowed for that escape to happen,” Mr Calhoun told CNBC.

By a quality escape, Mr Calhoun said, he was referring to “anything that could potentially contribute to an accident.”

A flight leaving Portland, Oregon had to make an emergency landing after part of the plane — known as a door plug or a fuselage plug — flew off, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft.

No passengers were seated directly next to the hole, and no serious injuries were reported during last Friday’s incident.

When Mr Calhoun first saw photos of the damage, he said he was “devastated.”

A plastic sheet covers an area of the fuselage of the Alaska Airlines N704AL Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft outside a hangar at Portland International Airport on 8 January 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Getty Images)

“I saw the picture everybody saw of the opening,” he said. “But what I really saw was the empty seat. And I had spent a week with my kids and grandkids, and so enough said. I imagine every human being who would see that understands the severity and the consequence.”

In the aftermath of the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes with door plugs pending an investigation. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled as a result.

“This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again,” the FAA said in a statement.

The investigation will seek to “determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.”

“This investigation is a result of an incident on a Boeing Model 737-9 MAX where it lost a ‘plug’ type passenger door and additional discrepancies,” the FAA said. “Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they’re legally accountable to meet.”

In a statement, Boeing said they “deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers” and would comply with the FAA investigation.

One passenger on the flight, Elizabeth Le, told NBC News that when the incident occurred, she heard a “big bang” and then “extremely loud” wind rushing into the plane.

“I just couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said. “There’s a gaping hole. You could see the city and the stars and everything just outside of the window. It was crazy.”

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