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Passengers of the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 flight that experienced a midair blowout in January have received a letter from the FBI suggesting they may be victims of a crime. The FBI is currently investigating the case, and attorneys representing some passengers welcome the investigation as a means to seek accountability, answers, and improved safety on Boeing planes. Family members of victims of the 2019 Boeing 737 Max jet crash operated by Ethiopian Air, who are also represented by an attorney, have been informed by the FBI that they may be considered crime victims as well.

Flight attendants on Alaska Air Flight 1282 have been questioned by investigators from the Justice Department along with passengers receiving letters. The involvement of the Justice Department in this incident has the potential to challenge a deferred prosecution agreement between Boeing and the Justice Department that took place under the previous administration. The agreement was in response to allegations that Boeing defrauded the FAA during the certification process of the 737 Max jets, resulting in a settlement of $2.5 billion. The criminal investigation into the Alaska Air incident could expose Boeing to further criminal charges beyond the original fraud allegations.

In January, the Alaska Air flight experienced a blowout after takeoff due to a missing panel of the fuselage called the “door plug,” leading to an emergency landing. An NTSB investigation found that the jet did not have the necessary bolts to secure the door plug, which was attributed to Boeing delivering the plane without the required components. The FAA identified manufacturing issues at Boeing and their supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, during an audit following the incident. The Justice Department has issued subpoenas related to the incident seeking information about Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems and the door plug used in the Boeing 737 Max 9s.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun admitted fault in causing the problem and expressed accountability for the incident. The company is set to report significant losses in the first quarter due to the Alaska Airlines incident, including compensation to affected airlines and expenses related to production delays as a result of the ongoing investigation. The incident has resulted in a financial toll on Alaska Airlines, costing the airline approximately $150 million and leading to slower production at Boeing’s 737 Max plant in Renton, Washington.

The FBI has informed passengers of the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 flight that they may be victims of a crime, leading to an investigation by the Justice Department. The involvement of the Justice Department could potentially challenge a deferred prosecution agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice related to previous fraud allegations. The missing door plug on the Boeing 737 Max 9 flight led to an emergency landing, and subsequent investigations by the NTSB and FAA have highlighted manufacturing issues at Boeing and its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems. Boeing has acknowledged responsibility for the incident and expects to incur significant financial losses as a result.

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