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Information About the Alaska Airlines Door Plug and the Resulting Boeing Lawsuit

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Aviation accident lawyers specialize in cases where pilots, airlines and/or aircraft parts manufacturers fail to meet the safety standards that regulate this industry. While air travel is widely regarded as safe, its viability rests on the people we entrust to design, assemble, fly and maintain aircraft vessels to operate and land safely on every flight. When negligence meets opportunity, disaster can strike. 

Now in its third decade, the Portland aviation accident lawyers at DeShaw Law specialize in cases involving aircraft malfunction. Whether on the ground or 30,000 feet above it, aviation accident cases can be traumatic, PTSD-inducing—and, in tragic cases involving plane crashes, even fatal. Call our aviation accident attorneys at (503) 227-1233 for your complimentary consultation.

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Common Causes of Aircraft Crashes

Common causes of aircraft crashes include:

  • Pilot error/human error (fatigue, insufficient training, negligence, etc.)

  • Mechanical failure (e.g., engine failure)

  • Air traffic control errors

  • Sabotage

  • Controlled Flight into Terrain

  • Design/manufacturer flaws

  • Negligent aircraft maintenance

What is the most common cause of aircraft accidents?

Given the complexity of airplane travel, it should come as no surprise that airplane crashes can arise from a multitude of causes. Investigations can take months or even years to complete, and aircraft cases often require expert testimony from various experts in the field.

If you have survived an aviation accident, or if you have lost a family member to an aviation accident, we are here to help. We understand that you may feel shut out of the process and left to wonder when, or if, your case will resolve; this is because the investigative agencies intentionally bar family members and survivors from being privy to the investigation process. 

DeShaw Law strives to be as available and transparent as possible when handling your aircraft accident case. Our experienced personal injury lawyers are here to help you pick up the pieces of your life after a traumatic event. Call us today for your free, confidential consultation: (503) 227-1233

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282: A Door Plug Disaster

On January 5, 2024, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 made its scheduled ascent out of Portland International Airport en route to Ontario, California. It was on this fateful flight that, shortly after takeoff, a rectangular internal panel called a “door plug” ripped off the body of the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet at 16,000 feet, exposing passengers to the bracing cold and hundred-mile winds. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing at the Portland Oregon airport (PDX). Fortunately, all 177 people aboard the plane—171 passengers and six crew members—survived; three people were treated for minor injuries. 

Alaska Flight 1282

Read more about Alaska Airlines Flight 1282

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation published February 6th, 2024, reported that four critical door plug bolts were missing at the time of the accident. Boeing, the company that makes 737 Max 9 commercial jets, left evidence to suggest that door plug was delivered to Alaska Airlines with no bolts attached. Future NTSB hearings are scheduled August 6th and 7th, 2024.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also immediately began an investigation into the cause of the 737 Max 9 plane’s exit door failure. After a full audit of Boeing's production and manufacturing infrastructures, the FAA issued a statement in which it identified "non-compliance issues in Boeing's manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control". According to a letter dated January 10th, “Boeing may have failed to ensure its completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in accordance with quality system inspection and test procedures."

Read The FAA’s Latest Updates on Boeing 737-9 MAX Aircraft

While thankfully no passengers experienced permanent physical injury, multiple former passengers have reported symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the mid-air event. PTSD is a psychological injury that results from trauma. This serious mental health condition can arise from a singular traumatic event, and can affect relationships, mood, motivation, sleep patterns and cognitive functioning.

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What is an airplane door plug?

A door plug is a structure that replaces an optional emergency exit door on an aircraft. The Max 9 door plug is lighter than an exit door would be, and offers a passenger window in the middle. They are fabricated to look like a cabin panel from the inside and will not appear to look like an emergency exit.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

What does a PTSD lawyer do?

A PTSD lawyer specializes in cases where the psychological aftermath of a traumatic event interferes with their client’s activities of daily living. A PTSD lawyer will seek out the necessary evidence to establish both liability (who is responsible) and also the extent of the damages (i.e., the way PTSD continues to affect their client’s life). A qualified PTSD lawyer will be able to assess the viability of your claim and pursue compensation for PTSD and other psychological injuries.

Following a spate of maintenance issues, aviation lawsuits have proliferated recently. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is among the most common psychological outcomes for survivors of these harrowing accidents. In cases involving fatality, a wrongful death lawyer will be needed.

Insurance companies are often slow to pay on claims involving psychological distress—and yet many aviation accident survivors are forever changed as a result of their traumatic experience. DeShaw Law offers consultations and representation for people who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, symptoms of PTSD as a result of their Boeing or Alaska Airlines’ negligence. Our law firm serves people in Oregon and Washington.

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What kind of aircraft was involved in the Alaska Airlines lawsuit?

The aircraft involved in the January 5th door plug incident was a Boeing 737 MAX 9 (also referred to as a “model 737-9”). 

  • Manufacturer serial number: 67501

  • Fuselage line number: 8789

  • Registration number: N704AL

This specific plane took its first flight in October, and was only two months old at the time of the door plug blowout. It had logged just 154 flights and 510 flight hours. It first flew on October 15, 2023, entering service for Alaska Airlines on November 11, 2023. 

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What is special about the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft?

The 737 MAX 9 is special because it has the option for a rear mid-cabin emergency exit door. This is a feature that is unique to high-density aircraft with capacities in excess of 200 seats. Smaller aircraft do not require these additional exit doors. 

The particular plane that experienced the door plug blowout arrived at the Boeing Renton Factory with reportedly five damaged rivets near the door plug unit. The plug was removed and the rivets were repaired, but the door was not bolted into place when reinstalled.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

What caused the door plug accident on January 5, 2024?

Shortly after takeoff—roughly six minutes from becoming airborne—the plane’s left-side door plug separated from the frame of the aircraft, resulting in a gaping hole and immediate decompression. A passenger in the exit row seat 16F heard a loud bang, and then felt a strong gust of wind as the oxygen masks deployed. As reported in CNN, those seated close to the door plug opening moved to other seats further away.

Without proper intervention, this may not have been an isolated incident. On January 8, United Airlines announced they had also found loose bolts during aircraft inspections, just days before Alaska Airlines reported finding "many" 737 Max-9 vessels.

An NTSB investigation showed that decompression in the fuselage caused the cockpit door to fly open and hit the lavatory door, which then became stuck. Eventually, a flight attendant was able to re-secure the cockpit door while fighting the bracing winds. Pilot reference materials that had been secured below the cockpit windows blew into the cabin, and the first officer's headset flew off.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

Was anyone hurt in the Alaska Airlines door plug event?

Three Alaska passengers experienced injuries requiring medical attention; several passengers' items were sucked out of the door plug hole. According to the AP, a boy seated in row 25 had his shirt ripped off; his mother reported that she had to physically hold onto him to prevent him from flying out the hole in the terrifying moments after the event. While no one lost their life in the Alaska Airlines door plug incident, no one was seated in seat 26A, the position directly next to the gaping hole. Had someone been in that position, this story could have been much worse. 

DeShaw Law is here to ensure that airlines uphold the highest safety standards to keep everyone safe, on every flight. Grievous oversights like this must be appropriately investigated and penalized. If you wish to join the Boeing class action lawsuit, call our team of PTSD lawyers today: (503) 227-1233.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

What steps did Alaska Airlines take to keep people safe after the 737 Max 9 incident?

Alaska Airlines initially grounded their 65-vessel fleet of 737 MAX 9 aircraft after the incident, returning 18 back to service the following day, stating in a press release that those planes had been inspected "as part of a recent heavy maintenance visit.” 

Later that day, however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 9s through an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD). All vessels with door plug inserts required specific inspection on and around the door plug. Alaska Airlines removed their 18 aircraft from service following this announcement.

A followup press release reported that, between January 12 and Tuesday, January 16, Alaska Airlines canceled between 110 and 150 daily flights. On January 17, Alaska Airlines announced completion of their original findings as requested by the FAA, and submitted their results to both Boeing and FAA for analysis. Company flight cancellations continued through January 21, at which point the FAA recommended inspections of all Boeing 737-900ER door plugs to "ensure the door is properly secured". 

On January 24, the FAA cleared all door plug-equipped 737 MAX 9 aircraft to return to service after individual inspection is completed successfully for each plane. Alaska Airlines’ use of the plagued aircraft resumed the same day.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

Did Alaska Airlines know that the door plug could fall out?

Possibly. The specific aircraft involved had shown repeated cabin pressurization issues, with the "AUTO FAIL" warning on two previous occasions (December 7, 2024 and then again on January 3, 2024, just two days before the incident). Due to these warnings, Alaska Airlines had restricted the aircraft from extended overwater flights (per ETOPS regulations) until they could conduct a detailed inspection.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

Did Boeing accept responsibility for the door plug incident?

Yes. On January 9, four days after the harrowing event Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged the company's “mistake” and pledged his full transparency and cooperation with the ensuing investigations. Calhoun described the cause of this event as a "quality escape" issue. Boeing is currently under investigation for "alleged noncompliance" with regard to inspection and testing regulations on new aircraft; Dave Calhoun will be stepping down as president and CEO of Boeing  at the end of 2024.

Portland Aviation Accident Lawyer

Boeing Class Action Lawsuit

On January 11, six passengers filed a class-action lawsuit against Boeing, citing injuries to passengers and emotional trauma. "Passengers were shocked, terrorized and confused, thrust into a waking nightmare, hoping they would live long enough to walk the earth again," the suit stated. The lawsuit has plaintiffs from all over the United States.

Contact DeShaw Law to learn more about joining a class-action lawsuit against Boeing.