The CEO of Alaska Airlines has ripped Boeing in the wake of the recent near-disaster, revealing that loose bolts were found on many of the company’s 737 MAX 9 planes.
CEO Ben Minicucci said that a new in-house inspection of the Boeing model in the fleet has uncovered that many of the planes had loose bolts.
“I’m angry. I’m more than frustrated and disappointed. I am angry,” Minicucci told NBC News Tuesday. “This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people.
And my demand on Boeing is what are they going to do to improve their quality programs in-house, he added. Boeing is better than this. Flight 1282 should never have happened.
The CEOs interview was the first since a door plug on an Alaska Airlines-owned 737 MAX 9 carrying 177 people lost a door plug in the skies over Oregon during a flight to California on Jan. 5, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.
The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered all MAX 9 jets grounded and launched a safety investigation. 8 Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci revealed that loose bolts have been discovered on “many” of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes. NBC News 8 Alaska Airllnes Flight 1282 was forced to return to Portland International Airport after the fuselage panel blew out at 16,000 feet. AP 8 Passenger oxygen masks hang from the roof next to a missing window and a portion of a side wall of an Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. via REUTERS
The agency also announced an audit of the planes production line and suppliers “to evaluate Boeings compliance with its approved quality procedures.”
FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told CNBC that the agency has boots on the ground at Boeings 737 MAX factory, adding that the staffers will remain there until they are convinced that the quality control system is up to snuff.
Weve got a lot of inspectors on the ground, visually inspecting the aircraft as it comes through, Whitaker told the outlet Tuesday at FAA headquarters. Were shifting from more of an audit approach to a direct inspection approach. 8 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators examine the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was recovered from an Oregon property. via REUTERS 8 Leani Benitez-Cardona, NTSB aerospace engineer, and Matthew Fox, NTSB chief technical advisor for materials, unpacking the door plug Sunday (14 Jan) from Alaska Airlines flight 1282, a Boeing 737-9 MAX, in the materials laboratory at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. NTSB/SWNS 8 The CEO of Alaska Airlines said new, in-house inspections of the carrier’s Boeing 737 Max 9 planes in the wake of a near-disaster earlier this month revealed that many of the aircraft were found to have loose bolts. NBC News
Until were comfortable that the [quality assurance] system is working properly … were going to have boots on the ground, he said.
Whitaker declined to comment on when he expected the planes to return to service.
Its been difficult to predict, so weve sort of stopped trying. But as soon as we get it sorted out itll be up again, he told CNBC.
Minicucci told NBC News that Boeing must now it will improve its quality control and prevent such incidents from happening again.
Meanwhile, he said, the airline is incorporating its own added oversight on the production line.
“Were sending our audit people to audit their quality control systems and processes to make sure that every aircraft that comes off that production line, that comes to Alaska has the highest levels of excellence and quality,” he told the network. 8 The terrifying Alaska Airlines incident comes at a time when Boeing is still trying to prove it has sound quality control and safety procedures after two 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people. Getty Images
The CEO said that while the airline “was” planning to buy MAX 10s, the carrier will now evaluate “what the best long-term strategic plan is for Alaska(‘s) fleet mix” once the plane is certified.
“Its clear to me that we received an airplane from Boeing with a faulty door, he said.
Now the NTSB investigation is going to figure out why that was a faulty door, whether it was bad installation, missing hardware, a manufacturing issue, but theres no doubt that Alaska received an airplane off the production line with a faulty door,” Minicucci added. 8 The pilot made an emergency landing with 177 on board. Kelly Bartlett
Boeing told NBC News in a statement: We have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers. We are taking action on a comprehensive plan to bring these airplanes safely back to service and to improve our quality and delivery performance. We will follow the lead of the FAA and support our customers every step of the way.
Meanwhile, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby also expressed frustration with Boeing, telling CNBC that it is contemplating a future for its fleet without the 737 MAX 10.
I think the MAX 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camels back for us, he said. Were going to build a plan that doesnt have the Max 10 in it.
United has also said it found additional loose bolts on its MAX 9 jets.
Im disappointed that this keeps happening at Boeing. This isnt new, Kirby told CNBC. We need Boeing to succeed. But theyve been having these consistent manufacturing challenges. They need to take action here.