Justice Department probing Boeing midair door plug blowout

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into an incident that left a Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner with a gaping hole in its fuselage while it was in the air and full of passengers last month, according to multiple reports.

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An unidentified source told Bloomberg News that the investigation could expose Boeing to criminal liability.

Federal investigators are exploring whether the Jan. 5 incident on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 violated a 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement that the government reached with Boeing following deadly 737 Max jetliner crashes in 2018 and 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Neither Boeing nor the Justice Department immediately commented on the investigation.

Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle the charge, including funds to compensate the families of the crash victims and the airlines affected by a 20-month grounding of the planes, The New York Times and CNN reported. The deal prompted pushback at the time from critics who said it was overly lenient, according to the Times.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was forced to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon, in January after a door plug came off the plane — a Boeing 737 Max 9 — as it was ascending for a trip to California. The panel that blew off the plane landed in the Portland area, as did two cellphones that has been onboard.

In a preliminary report issued earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts appeared to have been removed from the plane at Boeing’s factory in Washington and never replaced. The agency is investigating the incident, as is the Federal Aviation Administration.

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