Boeing And Alaska Airlines Will Not Accept Responsibility For Injuries On MAX 9 Door Plug Blowout

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  • Boeing and Alaska Airlines deny legal responsibility for defective aircraft incident, challenging passenger lawsuits seeking damages.
  • Spirit Aerosystems, installer of door plug, not named in lawsuits. Boeing states other parties may have contributed to accident.
  • Boeing admits to mistakes in door plug installation, inability to produce maintenance documentation for N704AL aircraft.

Passengers aboard the now infamous Alaska flight 1282 can expect a challenge to lawsuits after both Boeing and Alaska Airlines have filed court documents disavowing any liability. According to a report by a Washington DC area newspaper, both the plane manufacturer and the airline that operated the defective aircraft are denying legal responsibility for the incident.

Immediately following the failure of a door plug on flight 1282, which resulted in cabin decompression and forced the aircraft to return to Portland (PDX), passengers filed as many as three separate lawsuits in multiple courts against both Boeing and Alaska Airlines. In one lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County, Oregon, three passengers were seeking $1 billion in damages.

An NTSB investigator examining the Boeing 737 MAX 9 involved with Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

Photo: NTSB

Alaska Airlines’ and Boeing’s most recent claim of innocence is in a separate lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Washington. In court documents filed on Monday, the planemaker and airline argue that they were not responsible for the aircraft’s defectiveness.

Boeing claims that the aircraft was not properly maintained or used by persons and or entities other than the plane manufacturer. Alaska Airlines, for its part, said the damage and personal injuries caused to passengers onboard the flight were caused by entities outside of Alaska its control.

Boeing Statement

Spirit Aerosystems, which originally installed the door plug, is not named as a defendant in the three lawsuits. The attorney representing the passengers in the US District Court of Washington case was not able to respond to Simple Flying’s inquiry.

Boeing, however, responded with the following statement:

“In an answer to a complaint filed in federal court yesterday, Boeing included a defense that parties other than Boeing might have contributed to the accident,” a Boeing spokesperson said. “This is a defense routinely asserted in the initial stages of litigation.”

Boeing added that it had amended language in its court filings to make it clear that it was not suggesting that Alaska Airlines was responsible for the incident.

A change of tone

The court documents are another development, a series of shocking headlines since the flight. Five days after the accident, Boeing had a different tone when it faced the public. Then, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said, “We’re going to approach this – number one – acknowledging our mistake.”

Image from the NTSB investigation of the Jan. 5 accident involving Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on a Boeing 737-9 MAX. Captured on Jan. 7.

Photo: NTSB

Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, went before the US Senate on March 6th and said that Boeing was “stonewalling” its investigation. Days later, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Department of Justice had begun a criminal investigation into Boeing.

The criminal investigation coincided with recent congressional reports that saw that Boeing and its employees were confused about its safety systems, which are required to meet federal workplace safety standards regarding the assembly of aircraft.

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at production facility

Photo: Andrew Crider | Simple Flying

The aircraft involved in Alaska 1282, registered N704AL, had been having pressurization problems that prevented the aircraft from maintaining certification for extended flight over water days before the door plug would fail entirely. While the NTSB investigation, as well as journalists looking into the matter, had discovered that Alaska Airlines knew about a potential problem with the aircraft, it is unclear if Alaska had any information to expect the aircraft was operating unsafely or that the maintenance issue should have grounded the aircraft.

Boeing, meanwhile, had also noted mistakes with the door plug installation prior to the aircraft’s delivery. The planemaker itself would perform maintenance on N704AL; however, it has been unable to produce documentation about this maintenance to investigators. While it’s unclear if this action was deliberate or a simple inability to hold onto security camera footage, it was recently uncovered that recordings of the maintenance had been overwritten.

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