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The Department of Justice’s Investigation into Boeing after Alaska Air Flight 1282

The Alaskan Airlines flight that took over the news cycle a few months ago is now being further investigated by the Justice Department. It seems as though the horrific accident involving  a panel of the plane detaching mid-flight could have been prevented by Alaskan Airlines, and especially by their manufacturer, Boeing. 

On January 5th 2024, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 flying from Oregon to California with 177 people, staff and passengers, on board were subject to a terrifying incident. Just before 5 p.m. PT, the flight took off from Portland International Airport and only forty minutes later had to return for an emergency landing. About six minutes into the flight, a panel of the fuselage, or the “door plug”, blew off at about 16,000 feet. The pilots were able to safely land the aircraft back in Portland with passengers only sustaining minor injuries and losing personal belongings that were sucked out of the gaping hole where the door plug once was. The force of the air at 16,000 feet could have resulted in catastrophic outcomes for passengers, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing. Days after the incident, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began to investigate Boeing. 

A victim specialist from the Seattle division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent a letter to the passengers stating that they may have been “possible victims of a crime”. As well as passengers having been communicated with by law enforcement, the flight attendants, pilots, and other crew aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 have been interviewed as part of the Justice Department’s Investigation. The department has convened a grand jury in Seattle. Mark Lindquist, an attorney for some of the passengers on this flight, told news sources,“My clients and I welcome the DOJ investigation.” He says “We want accountability. We want answers. We want safer Boeing planes. And a DOJ investigation helps advance our goals.” Officials with the FAA have also been investigating this incident. They discovered several issues in the production of Boeing’s 737 MAX jet, the plane involved in the situation on January 5th. The issues include mechanics from a top supplier using dish soap and a hotel key card in order to pass a compliance test. The FAA found that Boeing failed 33 of 89 product audits within production. Additionally, a preliminary investigation done by the National Transportation Safety Board found that this particular jet- which was

delivered to Alaska Air in October- had left Boeing’s factory without the four belts needed to keep the door plug in place. The door plug unlatching was the main cause of the incident for Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. The FAA also found various problems in production practices of Boeing and its supplier Spirit AeroSystems after a six week audit following the January 5th incident. It has been reported that a number of the subpoenas sent from the Justice Department to Boeing may be seeking documents regarding Spirit AeroSystems and the door plug that caused the blowout and is used in the Boeing 737 Max 9s. 

The Justice Department’s investigation could upend the controversial prosecution agreement that Boeing settled with the department during the final month of the Trump administration. The settlement was heavily criticised by loved ones of the crash victims involved and some members of Congress. Boeing was charged with defrauding the FAA and ordered to pay $2.5 billion with most of that sum going to the airlines that had purchased 737 Max jets that were grounded for 20 months following an Ethiopian Air crash and an earlier crash in Indonesia.  The fatal flights mentioned claimed 346 lives in 2018 and 2019. Robert Clifford commented on passengers on the Alaska Air flight receiving a letter telling them that they may be victims of a crime and stated that “the families of the Ethiopian Air victims should have also been considered crime victims.” Clifford represents many of the family members of the Ethiopian Air crash victims as well as some victims on the Alaska Air flight. 

Boeing reported major losses in their first quarter after the door plug blowout on the Alaska Airlines January 5th flight The losses partly stem from having to compensate airlines that owned and operated 737 Max 9’s which were grounded for three weeks after the incident. Ben Minicucci, the CEO of Alaska Air, told his investors that the incident cost Alaska Air approximately $150 million, and that he expected those losses to be compensated by Boeing.


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