Nobody would blame you if the first thought that ran through your head when you saw the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 plug door news was a question: “Was it a Boeing 737 Max?” That’s the troubled Boeing airplane model that was recently involved in two fatal accidents some six months apart: Lion Air Flight 610 (October 29th, 2018) and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (March 10th, 2019).
Both planes crashed because of a software feature built into the 737 Max 8 that pilots were not trained for. It had nothing to do with a plug door. Still, those two incidents grounded the 737 Max, becoming a huge blemish on Boeing’s reputation.
It turns out that Flight 1282 was a Boeing 737 Max 9 model that flew 150 times since entering service three months ago. It also turns out that Alaska Airlines was aware of potential issues with the airplane, as the plane’s auto pressurization fail light lit up three times in December.
It’s still unclear whether there’s a correlation between the plug door incident and the pressurization light. But Alaska Airlines made sure that the plane would not fly over the ocean to Hawaii, so it could return very quickly in case warning lights came on.
It’ll be months until we know what the problem was here. But you can watch a great Netflix documentary right now to understand the previous Boeing 737 Max problems and how they might be connected to the current incident: Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.
Released in 2022, some two years after the second fatal incident (Flight 302), the 90-minute documentary is the work of Rory Kennedy. Whether you love or hate flying, and independent of Alaska Airlines flight 1282, it’s a must-see Netflix original.
It doesn’t just do a great job explaining what went wrong with the two flights that crashed in 2018 and 2019; it also looks at the decisions that got Boeing there. It all boils down to a change in philosophy that followed the merger with McDonnell Douglas that saw Boeing chase profits at the expense of safety.
The documentary features plenty of interviews with former Boeing employees who detailed what was happening at the highly respected airplane manufacturer in the years that followed the merger. How cost-effectiveness, profitability, the competition with Airbus, and the need for high-paid execs to drive the price stock up for the shareholders ultimately led to the unfortunate tragedies in 2018 and 2019.
As I said, Flights 610 and 302 crashed because of a software feature the pilots were not trained for. A software feature that has nothing to do with the plug door of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 coming off mid-flight and giving the 171 passengers on board a near-death experience unlike any other.
But if you watch the Netflix documentary, like I have, you’ll wonder whether Boeing’s reported cost-cutting measures might be to blame. Boeing’s pursuit of profits may have been what eventually led to a sub-par inspection of the plug door that blew out of the fuselage on Friday.
I saw that documentary months before this new Alaska Airlines incident, and it was the first thing I thought of while watching clips from Flight 1282 that appeared on social media over the weekend.
I’m not afraid of flying and can’t say I’ll never fly in a Boeing plane. Also, what happened on Friday might not be even Boeing’s fault. We’ll have to wait for months before the coming investigations are concluded. But I will say the Downfall: The Case Against Boeing documentary gave me pause. The new Flight 1282 incident makes me wonder even more about my safety aboard new Boeing planes.