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Bolts were missing from the door plug that blew off a Boeing 737 Max 9, NTSB says


Federal investigators used a word about bolts on an airplane that air travelers would not like to see. The word was missing. Bolts were supposed to hold a door plug that blew off a Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet in midair, but those bolts were not there. That's one of the findings from the National Transportation Safety Board. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The NTSB confirms four key bolts were missing when the plane left Boeing's factory near Seattle. The preliminary report says the door plug was opened at Boeing's factory to repair some damaged rivets on the undelivered plane and that employees of Spirit AeroSystems, the company that builds the fuselage, repaired the rivets. But the report stops short of saying who was responsible for failing to reinstall the missing bolts after the work was completed. The NTSB says the investigation on that question continues. The report was released just hours after the head of the Federal Aviation Administration testified on Capitol Hill.


MICHAEL WHITAKER: Going forward, we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.

ROSE: FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker says the agency has stepped up its oversight of Boeing and Spirit. The FAA was roundly criticized for its lax oversight following the crashes of two 737 MAX 8 jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Now, the agency says it's dispatched inspectors to Boeing and Spirit factories and said some may remain there permanently.


WHITAKER: I do anticipate we will want to keep people on the ground there, so - we don't know how many yet, but we do think that presence will be warranted.

ROSE: The FAA has already ordered Boeing to cap production of the 737 at its current level of 38 jets per month until the agency is satisfied that quality control is up to its standards. In a statement, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said, quote, "whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened."

Joel Rose, NPR News, Washington.

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Joel Rose
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.