Justice Department launches criminal probe into Boeing 737 MAX Alaska Airlines incident


The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a criminal investigation following the Alaska Airlines incident during which a door panel blew off a Boeing 737 Max mid-flight.

Investigators have contacted some passengers and crew who were on the Jan. 5 flight that made the emergency landing in Portland, Ore., the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The DOJ has conducted interviews with pilots and flight attendants on the flight, the outlet said, citing documents and people familiar with the investigation.

The Alaska Airlines flight was a Boeing plane that suffered a blowout shortly after takeoff at 16,000 feet elevation. Pilots successfully landed the plane and there were no major injuries, but Boeing has been under heightened criticism since the incident.

The part of the plane that blew off was a panel that was plugging a space left for an extra emergency door. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched an investigation into the incident shortly after it happened. The Federal Aviation Administration is probing overall safety at Boeing.

The Hill has reached out to Alaska Airlines for comment, but the company told The Associated Press that “in an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation.”

“We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation,” the airline said in a statement.

The DOJ’s investigation will assist the review of whether Boeing has complied with a previous settlement that resolved a federal investigation into the safety of 737 Max aircraft after deadly crashes were reported in 2018 and 2019 killing more than 300 people, the Journal reported.

Earlier this week, the NTSB said Boeing has yet to turn over documentation related to the production and installation of the door plug that blew off. Last month, the NTSB said four bolts that keep the door plug in place were missing after the panel was removed so employees could repair something nearby in September.

In a letter to Congress, Boeing acknowledged that it cannot find records for work done on the door panel for the Alaska Airlines plane, the AP noted.

The Hill has reached out to the DOJ and Boeing for further comment.

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