Boeing confirms to federal accident investigators it has no records of work completed last year on a 737 Max 9 door plug that failed during a 5 January flight, nor does it know which employees performed the work.

Additionally, an attorney for the Boeing manager charged with overseeing door-plug work has told investigators that the manager remains unavailable to speak due to medical reasons.

NTSB investigators examine the door plug from Alaska Airlines flight 1282, a Boeing 737-9 MAX.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board

NTSB investigators examine the Alaska Airlines’ 737 Max 9 door plug that failed on 5 January during flight 1282

That is according to a 13 March letter from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy to top lawmakers on the US Senate Committee on Commerce & Science, & Transportation.

“We still do not know who performed the work to open, reinstall and close the door plug on the accident aircraft. Boeing has informed us that they are unable to find the records documenting this work,” Homendy’s letter says. “The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward.”

In the letter, a response to questions asked by lawmakers during a 6 March hearing, Homendy further describes her team’s struggles to receive basic information from Boeing about its work on the door plug before delivering the jet to Alaska Airlines last year.

In a 6 February preliminary accident report, the NTSB said four bolts intended to secure the plug were missing when it failed. Before delivering the jet, workers at Boeing’s Renton site had removed and reinstalled the plug to repair rivets – suggesting workers never replaced the bolts.

In 6 March testimony to Congress, Homendy castigated Boeing for not providing requested information. She said investigators has asked for, but not received, names of all people on the door-plug team. Later that same day, Boeing finally sent those names to the NTSB.

But the list “did not identify which personnel conducted the door-plug work”, Homendy’s 13 March letter says. “After NTSB received this list, I called Boeing chief executive officer David Calhoun and asked for the names of the people who performed the work. He stated he was unable to provide that information and maintained that Boeing has no records of the work being performed.”

Boeing also told the NTSB that relevant security camera footage, which investigators had requested, “was overwritten”.

Asked to comment about Homendy’s letter, Boeing says, “We will continue supporting this investigation in the transparent and proactive fashion we have supported all regulatory inquiries into this accident”.

“We have worked hard to honour the rules about the release of investigative information in an environment of intense interest from our employees, customers and other stakeholders,” it adds.

Earlier during the investigation, the NTSB also sought a statement from, or interview with, the “door crew manager” in Renton. Investigators have been unsuccessful, being told that the manager was “out on medical leave”, Homendy’s letter says.

Investigators followed up, inquiring about the manager’s status on 15 February and 22 February, “after which we were advised by his attorney that he would not be able to provide a statement or interview to NTSB due to medical issues”, Homendy says.

The NTSB seeks no punitive action against any Boeing employee, she adds. “I have instructed NTSB to utilise our authority to protect the identities of the door crew and other front-line employees who come forward with information relevant to the investigation.”

Alaska 737 Max 9 missing door plug

Source: NTSB

The failure left a gaping hole in the jet, which the pilots landed without serious injuries to passengers or crew