NTSB Sanctions Boeing for Sharing Door Plug Blow Out Investigative Details

The move comes days after a company executive speculated about possible causes of the incident on a737 Max 9 passenger jet earlier this year.

Boeing is facing restrictions and sanctions from the NTSB after the aircraft manufacturer divulged nonpublic information related to an ongoing investigation, NTSB said. [Courtesy: Shutterstock]

Boeing is facing restrictions and sanctions from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after the company divulged nonpublic information related to an ongoing investigation, the agency said Thursday.

The NTSB said the aircraft manufacturer "blatantly violated NTSB investigative regulations—and Boeing’s signed party agreement with the NTSB—by providing nonpublic investigative information to the media and speculating about possible causes of the January 5 door-plug blowout on a Boeing passenger jet in Portland, Oregon."

According to the safety agency, a Boeing executive provided investigative information and gave an analysis of factual information previously released Tuesday during a media briefing about quality improvements at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"Both of these actions are prohibited by the party agreement that Boeing signed when it was offered party status by the NTSB at the start of the investigation," NTSB said. "As a party to many NTSB investigations over the past decades, few entities know the rules better than Boeing."

Boeing officials have apologized to the NTSB, according to a statement supplied by the company to FLYING.

"As we continue to take responsibility and work transparently, we conducted an in-depth briefing on our safety and quality plan and shared context on the lessons we have learned from the January 5 accident.," Boeing’s statement said. "We deeply regret that some of our comments, intended to make clear our responsibility in the accident and explain the actions we are taking, overstepped the NTSB's role as the source of investigative information."

Boeing said it "stands ready" to answer any questions as the agency continues its investigation.

NTSB said when it learned of the unauthorized release of information, the agency requested additional details about the press briefing. Boeing provided a transcript, which revealed the company had provided "nonpublic investigative information to the news media that NTSB had not verified or authorized for release…[and] offered opinions and analysis on factors it suggested were causal to the accident," according to the agency.

In the briefing, Boeing portrayed the NTSB investigation as a search to locate the individual responsible for the door plug work. The NTSB, however, said it is focused on finding the probable cause of the event and not placing blame on any individual or assessing liability.

NTSB May Subpoena Records

According to the NTSB, because of Boeing’s recent actions, the company will retain its party status "but no longer have access to the investigative information the NTSB produces as it develops the factual record of the accident."

In addition, the NTSB may subpoena any relevant records it requires during the course of the investigation.

In the meantime, Boeing is under investigation by the Department of Justice regarding the alleged violation of the deferred prosecution agreement stemming from 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019. The DOJ has set a deadline of July 7 to determine if Boeing will face criminal charges.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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