Passengers aboard the near-catastrophic Alaska Airlines plane whose door broke mid-air claim staff ignored a “whistle” made by travelers on a previous flight, their attorney said Wednesday.
Attorney Mark Lindquist, who represents 22 passengers on Flight 1282 who sued Boeing and Alaska Airlines, said in a new statement that the manufacturer is “taking so many shortcuts that they are going around in circles.”
The class action lawsuit was filed last month, and an amendment filed Wednesday stated that “there was a whistling sound coming from the vicinity of the door plug on a previous flight of the subject aircraft.”
After passengers warned staff, who then informed the pilot, it is claimed that no action was taken “after the pilot checked the cockpit instruments, which were supposedly normal.”
The door, which was previously used as an emergency exit but had been sealed, exploded shortly after the plane reached 16,000 feet over Portland, Oregon, on January 5.
The lawsuit alleges a series of failures that caused the outlet door to explode, including also that crucial bolts were missing from the door when it was sealed and that the oxygen masks did not function properly.
On January 5, this plug door on an Alaska Airlines plane, which was previously used as an emergency exit but had been sealed, exploded shortly after the plane reached 16,000 feet over Portland, Oregon.
A class action lawsuit against Alaska Airlines and Boeing claims that passengers on a previous flight warned staff about a “hissing” sound around the weak plug door.
In Lindquist’s amendment this week, he escalated allegations that passengers aboard the flight suffered a series of physical and emotional injuries.
This included several plaintiffs who claimed to have suffered hearing loss, as well as concussions, leg injuries, trauma, anxiety and emotional distress.
Lindquist also cited an emergency design feature in the cockpit door that caused it to open when the cabin was depressurized, a feature the pilots did not know existed.
“The resulting shock, noise, and communication difficulties contributed to a lack of adequate communication between the flight crew and passengers, thereby intensifying confusion and stress,” the lawsuit says.
A month after the near-disaster, a preliminary report on the incident from the National Transportation Safety Board was released this week, offering the clearest picture yet of how the episode unfolded.
The most damning accusation fell on the missing bolts, alleging that four key bolts that were intended to prevent vertical movement of the door stopper were missing.
It was suggested that the oversight may have been due to Boeing workers failing to replace them after removing the plug for repair during assembly.
The damage patterns observed on the door plug and airframe indicated that all four bolts were not in place at the time of the incident, allowing the plug to become loose from the stop pads.
A photo shows three places (circled) where retaining bolts are missing after the door was removed and then reinstalled during a repair at the Boeing plant in Renton. A fourth location of a suspected missing bolt, at the top left, is not visible in the photo.
Boeing workers removed the door plug to repair five defective rivets just forward of the panel. The location of the defective rivets is marked above.
The door stopper was recovered from the backyard of a home after it exploded on January 5.
Shortly after the incident, the aviation media The air current reported that the plane involved in the incident had come under scrutiny by officials just a day before the window exploded.
The outlet claimed that a flashing warning light appeared on January 4 while taxiing into a terminal from a previous flight, prompting the airline to remove it from extended range operations (ETOPS).
Later that day, on another flight, the warning appeared again.
The Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft involved in the incident reportedly did not enter service until November 2023 and was virtually new by aviation standards having made fewer than 200 flights before the incident.
Terrified passengers have offered a glimpse aboard the plane as it flew frantically, as Emma Vu said she was asleep when she “felt the whole plane falling”.
She took to TikTok after surviving the horrific near-miss, revealing her panicked text messages to her family that read: ‘Masks are down; I’m very scared right now; Please pray for me; Please, I don’t want to die.’
“At that moment I was very scared,” Vu said.
“Masks fell off and people are screaming,” she continued, alongside a tearful selfie taken at the moment she feared could be her last.
Passenger Emma Vu offered a chilling glimpse of the near-catastrophic flight, saying she “felt the whole plane fall” about 20 minutes after the horror Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.
Vu revealed her final text messages to her family pleading ‘I don’t want to die’ and showed a selfie she took at the time that she feared could be her last.
After being awakened by the window explosion, Vu revealed the panicked text messages she sent to her family, telling them: “I don’t want to die.”
“I’m so grateful for the women sitting next to me… they were so kind to calm me down and the flight attendants were giving oxygen tanks to those who needed it most,” she said.
“But I was freaking out because my bag wouldn’t inflate, and that’s literally what they tell you in safety, like don’t worry, you’re still getting airflow… when you’re in fight or flight, “You’re not thinking about that”.
“It was so scary, no one knew what was going on, the pilot came and told everyone to put their mask on before helping others – literally word for word, what they tell you in safety training.”
“A little boy’s shirt flew off and his phone flew out the window,” he added. “It was so surreal.”
In the month-long investigation since then, investigators also analyzed work records at Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, the subcontractor that manufactured the plane’s fuselage and door plug in question.
Records show the fuselage involved arrived at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, plant for assembly on August 31, 2023.
On September 1, 2023, a work order was created noting five damaged rivets just in front of the door stopper, which was supposedly the cause of the missing bolts.
Records and photographs show that to repair the damaged rivets, it was necessary to remove the door plug, which involved removing the two roll stop bolts and the two top guide rail bolts.
Once the work was completed, the door was replaced by Boeing workers, who apparently were unable to replace the four crucial bolts.
During their investigation, the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX flight 1282 was seen, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a hole in the fuselage.
Alaska plane returned to Portland airport less than an hour after takeoff
While this week’s findings sparked outrage, the NTSB notes that they are preliminary and its investigation is ongoing.
The NTSB’s statement on the probable cause of the crash will come at the end of an investigation that could last a year or more.
“Whatever the final conclusion is reached, Boeing is responsible for what happened,” CEO David Calhoun said in a statement.
‘An event like this should not happen on a plane that leaves our factory. “We simply must do better for our customers and their passengers.”
Spirit AeroSystems said it was reviewing the NTSB’s draft report and was working with Boeing and regulators “to continually improve our processes to meet the highest standards of safety, quality and reliability.”