Kreindler Monitoring the Investigation of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, Boeing 737- 9 MAX Airplane Mid-Cabin Door Plug Explosive Blowout
January 6, 2024
JANUARY 22, 2024
Following the Alaska Airlines flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX door plug blowout incident, the F.A.A. recommends that airlines immediately perform inspections on a second model Boeing airplane, the 737-900ER. The inspection is to focus on the four locations used to secure the door plug to the aircraft frame.
JANUARY 12, 2024
Alaska Airlines Offers Refund + $1500 to Passengers
Alaska Airlines has offered to refund passenger tickets and has offered $1,500 to help passengers with incidental expenses. This amount is not adequate compensation for what the passengers went through. Under the law the passengers and crew of Flight 1282 are entitled to full and fair compensation for what they experienced on the flight.
It is perfectly fine to accept the small payment offered by Alaska Airlines if it comes with no strings attached. It is common after aviation accidents for airlines to offer financial assistance to passengers and their families, and while the amount being offered by Alaska Airlines is relatively small, the passengers should feel comfortable accepting the payment as long as they are not asked to waive any legal rights.
We advise that you do not agree to waive your legal rights.
JANUARY 11, 2024
FAA investigating whether the Boeing 737-9 MAX used for Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 conformed to the airplane’s approved design. The evidence thus far points to a mistake in the manufacturing process, which would be consistent with the FAA’s investigation. When a mistake during manufacture results in a safety defect in the airplane, then by definition the airplane does not meet the approved design since it assumes proper manufacture and assembly of each part of the airplane.
A Boeing 737-9 MAX airplane operated by Alaska Airlines blew out a two-foot by four-foot door plug weighing sixty-three pounds while climbing through 16,000 feet on Friday, January 5. The airplane suffered an explosive decompression, and the pilots made an emergency descent and landed at Portland International Airport. Flight 1282 was carrying six crew members and 171 passengers.
It is a miracle that no one was killed.
Door Plug and Bolts
The Boeing 737-9 that was used for Alaska Flight 1282 has two “door plugs” installed. A door plug is a low-cost option for airlines that operate airplanes configured for less than 190 seats and are, therefore, not required to have an extra pair of emergency exit doors. From the inside of the airplane, the plug is not visible, and the passenger would only see typical windows at the plug’s positions. It was very lucky that no passenger was seated adjacent to the plug because that passenger could very well have been killed or received life-threatening injuries.
The door plugs are not designed to be opened except during maintenance. The plugs are held in place by twelve stop fittings and pads against which the plug rests. These take pressurization loads from the door plug to the door frame. The plug also has two large hinges and binding straps on the bottom. During maintenance, the door is opened using the hinges.
Four bolts secure the door plug, two that go through the lower hinge bracket assemblies on either side of the door, and two in each upper guide fitting on either side at the top of the door. The bolts are designed to not back out if properly installed.
Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kansas, manufactured the fuselage of the airplane, and it was transported by rail to Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton, Washington, where Boeing completed the assembly of the airplane, tested it and delivered it to Alaska Airlines. According to a CBS News report, Spirit AeroSystems was originally a manufacturing unit of Boeing until it was spun off in 2005.
On December 19, 2023 a class action lawsuit was filed against Spirit AeroSystems, the main parts supplier for Boeing, alleging that Spirit suffered from “widespread and sustained quality failures.” Read more below.
Legal Rights of the Passengers
Passengers on board Alaska Airlines flight 1282 are entitled to damages for physical and psychological injuries that they suffered when structural failure of the Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft caused the explosive depressurization. Many passengers received physical injuries, and all suffered some level of psychological harm.
The passengers are entitled to the following categories of damages:
1. Economic Losses Passengers are entitled to compensation for any costs and expenses they suffered because of the accident. This would include medical expenses, lost income, and other financial losses.
2. Physical Pain and Suffering Passengers are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering they have experienced because of any physical injuries caused by the accident.
3. Psychological Harm Passengers are entitled to compensation for the psychological harm they suffered. This may include conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions.
The investigation will identify the party or parties responsible for the accident, and this will determine whether the case will go forward as a products liability case and/or a negligence case. If Boeing delivered the airplane to Alaska Airlines in a defective condition, then Boeing and its suppliers would be strictly liable to the passengers. Boeing may also be liable for negligence if it breached its duty to use reasonable care in the manufacture of the airplane. If the investigation identifies that Alaska Airlines was negligent, it would also be liable to pay damages to the passengers.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, punitive damages may also be available, but this requires a much higher showing of fault, and it may not be available under the applicable law. Punitive damages punish the wrongdoer and may be multiples of the compensatory damages awarded in the case.
Advice to Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Passengers
The most important thing is to get whatever help you need to address the physical and psychological injuries you suffered in the accident. You should also be wary of anyone who tries to contact you directly, whether it be a plaintiffs’ lawyer or an insurance adjuster. You have plenty of time before you need to take legal action, and you should not be pressured into making any decisions until you are ready to consider your legal options. We are happy to talk to you when you are ready and will advise you of your legal rights in a free consultation.
In the Media
Kreindler partner Justin Green spoke with CNN’s Abby Phillip about the report of loose bolts on the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft and also Boeing’s exposure to liability for the psychological impact for all those aboard the Alaska Airlines flight.
According to a CBS News report covering Boeing’s CEO acknowledging their mistake, investigators are looking at four missing bolts that were meant to keep the door plug in place during the flight. NTSB officials are unsure if they ever existed aboard the Alaska Airlines Boeing Max 9 aircraft.
The New York Times reported that the FAA’s grounding order affects 171 airplanes. The FAA has instructed Airlines to inspect the mid-cabin door plug. The FAA estimates that the inspection of each aircraft could take four to eight hours.
OregonLive.com reported that according to federal officials, the left door plug slid off its hinges, disconnected from the fuselage and blew off the airplane. It is unclear if the four bolts intended to prevent that from happening were in place.
Reuters reported that United Airlines has so far found close to ten airplanes with loose bolts during its preliminary checks.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the incident. The NTSB has recovered the door plug, which is key evidence of how the plug was installed in the airplane and how it failed. Thus far, the investigation has not found the four bolts that help secure the door plug to the fuselage.
The investigation will focus on whether Boeing or Spirit Aerosystems were the last to install the door plug. The investigation will also focus on what work, if any, Alaska Airlines or its contractors performed on the area of the door after delivery of the airplane.
The NTSB will investigate how the plug was installed, what caused it to fail and the safety implications of the failure. This was a new airplane, and Alaska Airlines had only recently begun to fly it. The door plug design was not a new design – the same door plugs have been used for almost 15 years in the Boeing 737-900ER without any major incidents. This raises a major question of why this failure has occurred so early in the operational life of the Boeing 737-9 MAX, given the lack of incidents involving the door plug in the Boeing 737-900ER.
The investigation will also focus on the maintenance of the airplane, including the inspections that Alaska Airlines is obligated to perform to ensure the airplane is airworthy. This part of the investigation will determine whether there were any prior incidents relating to the door plug and, if so, how Alaska Airlines addressed the prior incidents. This part of the investigation will also consider the causes of the prior pressurization alerts and whether they were signs of the impending structural failure, and whether the airline should have been able to identify the impending failure.
The NTSB will employ experts from diverse fields, including materials science (metallurgy), structural engineering, aerodynamics, piloting, operations, airworthiness, metrology, and maintenance.
The most important investigative step will be the examination of the recovered door plug and the door frame because this should reveal the failure mechanism and any pre-existing anomalies that contributed to the failure. This examination will reveal, for example, whether the attachment bolts were installed and, if so, whether they were loose or working before the failure.
The airplane’s black boxes, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, contain important information concerning the accident, but unfortunately, the cockpit voice recorder is set to a two-hour loop, which means that the investigators will not have recordings of the pilots for the entire incident or on the prior flights where they encountered auto pressurization fail lights. We fully support the call of the NTSB on the Federal Aviation Administration to require a 25-hour recording window for all airlines flying in United States airspace, which is already required under European airline regulations.
About Spirit AeroSystems December 2023 Lawsuit Alleging Widespread Quality Failures
According to an NPR news story, the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of shareholders alleges the leaders of Spirit AeroSystems misrepresented details about its operations and mismanaged the company, resulting in sharp declines in Spirit’s stock value. The documents filed in federal court in December of 2023 also included details about a quality-control inspector working for a main supplier of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft who had reported that an excessive amount of defects were found at a plant in Kansas. These allegations only serve to increase the scrutiny on Spirit Aerosystems, the manufacturer of the Boeing 737-9 MAX fuselage and the door plug that blew out of the side of Alaska Airlines flight 1282.
Bloomberg reported the Alaska Airlines flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX airplane that suffered a mid-air door plug blow out on January 5 had spent ten days in Oklahoma City from November 27 through December 7. The report details the Boeing aircraft was there to receive a Wi-Fi installation at AAR Corp., an Alaska Airlines maintenance partner. In a January 7 briefing, the NTSB said that its inspectors will look into the pressurization system as the warning light is a concern. They will also look at the maintenance and repair logs for any link to the accident. According to Bloomberg, the pressurization lights came on three times from December 7 to the date of the accident.
Kreindler’s Related Cases
Kreindler’s related cases include:
- Alaska Airlines Flight 536
- Southwest Airlines Flight 2294
- American Airlines Flight 58
- Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302
Kreindler Experience with Depressurization Incidents
Kreindler attorneys have previously successfully litigated a depressurization case against Alaska Airlines. That case involved damage done to the aircraft by a ground services crew that resulted in a near-catastrophic rupture occurring at 26,000 feet. Kreindler successfully resolved claims for thirty-nine passengers from Alaska Airlines Flight 536.
Another depressurization case that Kreindler successfully handled involved a very serious decompression on a Boeing 737, which lead to a death and significant injuries.
Kreindler Sets Record for Jury Award for Psychological Injuries
Regarding psychological injuries versus physical injuries, Kreindler aviation attorneys set a record for compensation for emotional trauma following an American Airlines severe turbulence incident. The monetary awards related to passengers on American Airlines flight 58 (which included film director Steven Spielberg’s sister, Nancy Spielberg, and her family) were the highest ever awarded by a jury for purely emotional rather than physical injuries in a lawsuit.
Kreindler Experience vs. Boeing
In addition to the Boeing 737 depressurization case, Kreindler has successfully handled many cases for victims of serious incidents involving Boeing aircraft. Following the 2019 tragedy in which a Boeing 737 Max airplane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed and killed all 157 people on board, the court appointed Kreindler partner Justin Green Co-Chair of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the ensuing litigation against The Boeing Company. In addition to Green, the court appointed Kreindler partners Brian Alexander, Daniel Rose, Anthony Tarricone, Megan Benett, and Erin Applebaum to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee.
In a separate ongoing fight to hold Boeing criminally accountable for the tragedy, Kreindler partner Erin Applebaum and other key attorneys representing the families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims argued before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in order to overturn the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) between the U.S. Department of Justice and Boeing. The DPA is tied to Boeing’s conspiracy to conceal safety issues surrounding its 737 MAX aircraft involved in the 2018 and 2019 tragedies.
Kreindler Partner Justin Green Spoke to Business Insider About the Detached Door Plug Incident Aboard a Boeing MAX 9
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler is the world’s preeminent aviation accident law firm. Our airplane crash attorneys have been appointed leading counsel in major commercial airline disaster cases in the U.S. and abroad. Since 1950, we have fought for victims and their families while achieving a record of success in resolving aviation disaster cases on behalf of our clients. Kreindler has law offices in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Alaska Air Boeing 737 Max 9 by KirkXWB