Alaska Airlines N704AL, a 737 Max 9, which made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport on January 5 is parked at a maintenance hanger in Portland, Oregon on January 23, 2024.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun met with several U.S. senators on Capitol Hill Wednesday as scrutiny builds on the company’s leaders over a blown door plug on one of the company’s 737 Max 9 planes earlier this month.
“I’m here today in the spirit of transparency… [and to] answer all their questions, because they have a lot of them,” Calhoun told reporters.
The meetings were organized at Calhoun’s request, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the planes after the door plug blew as Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, a nearly-new 737 Max 9, was climbing out of Portland, Oregon, exposing passengers to a force so violent it sucked out headrests and seatbacks.
The FAA is still reviewing data from 40 early inspections of the planes before it can approve safety review instructions that would clear the path for the planes to return to service.
“It’s been difficult to predict [how long that process will take], so we’ve sort of stopped trying,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told CNBC on Tuesday. “But as soon as we get it sorted out it’ll be up again.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, told reporters after his meeting with Calhoun that the Senate is looking into addressing airline safety in the FAA reauthorization bill.
“Aviation safety can’t be reactive. It has to be proactive. And that is why we need to get this darn FAA reauthorization done,” Sullivan said.
Earlier Wednesday the Seattle Times reported that the fuselage panel which blew out during the Alaska Airlines flight, manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems, was removed for repair and then improperly reinstalled by Boeing mechanics, not Spirit’s.
Calhoun and Boeing declined to comment on that report Wednesday, citing an ongoing federal investigation.
“As the air safety agency responsible for investigating this accident, only the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board can release information about the investigation,” Boeing said in a statement about the Seattle Times report. “As a party to this investigation, Boeing is not able to comment and will refer you to the NTSB for any information.”
The NTSB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Spirit AeroSystems shares were up 6% midday Wednesday boosted that report. The stock is down more than 10% since the Jan. 5 Alaska incident. Boeing’s stock was trading about 2% higher Wednesday but has shed more than 10% over that period.