A Timeline of Boeing’s Controversies This Year

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Imagine thinking that you’re going to go about your day perfectly normally, that nothing could happen that would change the monotony of your life. So you walk out into your backyard to get some air in the morning. Except … you find the door of an airplane, right there in the grass. This was true for Bob Sauer, a science teacher at Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon.

This alarming incident unfolded on a Boeing 737 Max 9 passenger jet operated by Alaska Airlines, as one of its rear door plugs unexpectedly detached mid-flight, eventually landing in the teacher’s backyard. This happened in the initial weeks of 2024 and since then, this ordeal has served as a stark wake-up call to the aviation industry.

Since this incident, Boeing has not had much respite in terms of the controversies they find themselves in. So, here’s VALLEY’s breakdown of what’s happened since:


Due to the increasing concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took decisive action by announcing plans for a comprehensive audit of Boeing’s production lines and supplier networks. This audit was starkly different from previous regulatory practices and its being announced prompted stakeholders to reassess their approaches to safety assurance and regulatory compliance. As a result, Boeing and its suppliers were again thrust into the spotlight, facing heightened scrutiny over their protocols and standards.

Photo from NPR.org

One of the most spotlighted events to come out of Boeing’s controversies was the statement of a whistleblower at the company. A whistleblower is a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity. This person reported that Boeing was the one to install the door that fell apart, whereas previously Spirit Aerosystems had been taking the brunt of the criticism.

The FAA eventually did allow for the Boeing 737 Max 9 jets to fly again after a thorough inspection and on January 26 they were able to do this. However, these incidents associated with Boeing have caused customers to be more aware than ever of what they’re flying on and how safe it could be.


It was found from a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that four critical bolts had been missing from the plane of which the door plug blew off. These bolts were allegedly supposed to keep the plane from flying upwards, the lack of which may have ultimately resulted in the incident that took place earlier in the year.

On February 21, Boeing executive Ed Clark, who had previously been in charge of Boeing’s 737 Max program left the company. He was then replaced by Katie Ringgold. Allegedly due to the incidents that had been taking place in regards to the company, Boeing also created a new role — the senior vice president of quality, naming Elizabeth Lund to the post.

Boeing will pay $200 million over 737 Max crashes to settle SEC charges :  NPR
Photo from NPR.org

The FAA continued to put pressure on Boeing to increase their efforts on the safety and protocol standards on their planes. They informed Boeing officials that they would have 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality-control issues to meet FAA’s non-negotiable safety standards.”


Catching us up to the present, a lot of the developments in Boeing’s case happened in March 2024. After the six-week audit of Boeing as well as the previously mentioned Spirit, the FAA reported that it found “multiple instances where the companies allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.” There were also concerns cited about Boeing’s company culture and a sense of disconnect when it came to the upper and lower management level’s concerns with plane safety.

Amidst concerns from several authoritative organizations as well as the public, it was revealed that a Boeing whistleblower with an ongoing case against the company had been found dead. John Barnett was a former Boeing quality control manager who became a whistleblower. He was found in Charleston, S.C., where he once worked at Boeing’s large 787 plant.

Photo from NPR.org

The coroner’s office reported that he may have died from “what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.” Barnett was locked in a years-long legal battle with Boeing. He filed a complaint in early 2017, where he accused a former employer of retaliating against him for raising safety concerns in the company’s commercial airplanes. He was avidly looking forward to Boeing bringing about change in their company culture, hopefully as a part of his own trial.

The most recent update has been the NTSB announcing plans to hold an investigative hearing on August 6 and 7 of Boeing. This will specifically be about its investigation “into how and why a door plug departed” during the flight on the jet.

This hearing will be available to the public, being livestreamed and will feature investigators, witnesses and others, according to the agency.

Let us know what you think about Boeing’s controversies thus far by tagging us @VALLEYmag on Instagram or X!


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