Boeing Violates NTSB Agreement in 737 MAX 9 Door Plug Investigation

An NTSB officer inspects damaged Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 interior.
Photo Credit: NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced a series of restrictions and sanctions on Boeing.

This comes after Boeing reportedly violated investigator regulations on Boeing’s signed party agreement with the NTSB.

The US plane manufacturer provided non-public investigated information to the media and speculated about possible causes of the January 5 door plug blowout on a Boeing jet in Portland, Oregon.

Details of the Breach

The crux of the issue lies in a media briefing held by Boeing on quality improvements within Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

During this briefing, a company executive overstepped boundaries by disclosing non-public investigative information and offering an analysis of previously released factual details.

This directly contradicts the terms of the party agreement signed between Boeing and the NTSB, granting Boeing a designated role within the investigation process.

NTSB Recovers Missing Door Plug from Alaska Airlines 1282
Photo Credit: NTSB.

A Company ‘Well-Acquainted with Protocols’

As a frequent participant in investigations over the past decades, the NTSB says that Boeing is undeniably familiar with the protocols and limitations associated with party status.

Due to this violation, the NTSB has restricted Boeing’s access to ongoing investigative information while allowing them to retain their party status.

The NTSB retains the right to subpoena any company records deemed relevant to the investigation.

Further Consequences for Boeing

The NTSB has taken additional steps to address the breach. A subpoena has been issued for Boeing to appear at an investigative hearing scheduled for August 6th and 7th in Washington D.C.

Unlike other parties involved in the hearing, Boeing will be restricted from questioning other participants. This limits their ability to influence the direction of the investigation.

Collaboration with the Department of Justice

The situation becomes even more complex due to the ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.

This is looking into Boeing’s interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prior to the Boeing 737 MAX fatalities.

This investigation is tied to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) reached in 2021. In light of the recent breach, the NTSB will collaborate with the DOJ Fraud Division to share details regarding Boeing’s unauthorized release of information in the 737 MAX 9 door plug blowout investigation.

This collaboration suggests a potential escalation of consequences for Boeing if the DOJ finds a connection between the two incidents.

A Boeing 737 MAX 9 in flight.

Focus of the NTSB Investigation

Upon learning of the unauthorized information release, the NTSB initiated its own investigation.

A transcript provided by Boeing revealed a media briefing that included details not verified or authorized for release.

This occurred along with Boeing’s own analysis suggesting potential causes for the incident.

Notably, the manufacturer’s briefing appeared to portray the investigation as focused on identifying a single culprit.

In a statement, the NTSB clarified that it prioritizes determining the probable cause to prevent future occurrences, not assigning blame.

This fundamental difference in approach highlights the potential for Boeing’s actions to have misled the public.

An NTSB investigator inspects a door plug on an Alaska Airlines jet.
Photo Credit: NTSB

Timing of Media Briefing

The timing of the Boeing media briefing adds another layer of concern. The 737 MAX briefing occurred on the same day the five-member NTSB board was engaged on another matter.

At the time, it was deliberating on the probable cause and contributing factors behind last year’s East Palestine railroad derailment and hazardous materials release.

This timing may suggest a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from the NTSB’s ongoing safety investigations.


The breach of the party agreement raises new questions about the manufacturer’s internal safety culture and their willingness to cooperate with regulatory bodies.

The upcoming investigative hearing and potential involvement of the DOJ Fraud Division will be crucial in determining the full extent of the consequences for the manufacturer.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of independent safety oversight and the need for companies to prioritize transparency and cooperation in the aftermath of aviation incidents.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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