Strain Between Boeing and NTSB Higher Than Ever?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | June 28, 2024

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is furious with Boeing after the manufacturer revealed investigation details to journalists.

On Tuesday (25th of June) Boeing officials gave a factory tour of its Renton 737 production facility, to a large group of journalists. The aircraft manufacturer wanted to showcase the work it has done, in improving quality and safety in 737 production.

The door plug. Photo: NTSB

Boeing reportedly described the event to journalists as “a full day dedicated to safety and quality”. The Farnborough International Airshow takes place in the UK next month, and Journalists saw this week’s Renton tour as a prelude to that.

However, it appears that Boeing did not inform the NTSB about its intention to conduct this factory tour and briefing to journalists. And afterward, the NTSB became aware that some of the information and statements that Boeing representatives made, revealed “non-public investigative information”.

Strain Between Boeing and NTSB Higher Than Ever?
Photo: NTSB

This violated the rules. As the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing is part of the investigation into the blowout accident. But as the investigative authority, the NTSB is responsible for deciding what to release to the public, and when.

NTSB Sanctions Boeing

In addition to releasing sensitive information, the NTSB stated that a Boeing representative also “made unsubstantiated speculations about possible causes of the Jan. 5 door plug blowout”.

Strain Between Boeing and NTSB Higher Than Ever?
Opened plug (left) and closed later (right) during interior work. Photos: Boeing via NTSB

In its defense, Boeing stated that its briefing to journalists was meant as a follow-up to its Safety & Quality Plan, which it provided at the end of May, at the request of the FAA. And that any investigative information it shared, was provided as context to the steps it took to improve its quality and safety processes.

The aircraft manufacturer has apologized to the NTSB – but the board has decided to sanction Boeing for its actions. The NTSB plans to hold a hearing on the Alaska 737 MAX-9 accident in August. Boeing will attend, but the sanctions mean that the manufacturer won’t be able to ask questions to witnesses.

A different Alaska Air 737-9. Photo (cropped): Andrew Heneen, CC BY 4.0

Boeing also won’t have access to the docket of this NTSB investigation. Dockets are the NTSB’s way of grouping ALL relevant data and other information of an accident investigation. They are usually released to the public along with final reports, or shortly before.

The NTSB has previously been frustrated by Boeing and what it saw as Boeing’s reluctance to share information and make people available for interviews. This latest episode suggests that the relationship between the two entities remains as fraught as ever. The NTSB also said:

As a party to many NTSB investigations over the past decades, few entities know the rules better than Boeing”.


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