JAL A350 ground collision is first hull loss by damage and fire of an all-composite airplane

Jan. 2, 2024, (c) Leeham News: Editor’s Note: With the ground collision (Jan. 2, 2024, Tokyo time) of a Japan Air Lines Airbus A350 and its destruction by fire, we’re reposting this article from March 2009. It was then that Boeing was in early production of the 787 and the Federal Aviation Administration was studying what Special Conditions to require in the event of a fire on a composite passenger airliner. The 787 was the first all-composite airliner and how composite of this scale would react in a fire was then mostly known. The only all-composite, large airplane fire had been that of the B-2 Stealth bomber.

Video via Times of London.

LNA spoke with airport fire officials about preparing for a composite airliner fire and we discussed the challenges the US Air Force had in putting out the B-2 fire. Fires occurred on two 787s after entry into service: a JAL aircraft that was parked at the Boston airport after a flight from Tokyo and an Ethiopian 787 parked in London. The JAL fire was traced to a battery. Airport firefighters faced challenges in putting out the fire. The airplane was heavily damaged but repaired. The Ethiopian 787 fire was traced to pinched wires creating a short at the emergency transmitter locator in the top of the fuselage. The plane was heavily damaged but repaired. The JAL A350 is the first hull loss of a composite airliner and the first by fire.

Investigators will learn all kinds of lessons from the A350 accident.

All passengers and crew on the A350 escaped. The five crew on the Japanese Coast Guard airplane involved in the collision died.

The March article is below.

Uncertainty exists combatting composite airplane fires

March 10, 2009, (c) Leeham News: Uncertainty exists over how airport fire departments will fight fires in the new composite commercial airliners, indicating that the manufacturers still have educating to do.

A top fire official at Denver International Airport, the location of the most recent airport crash and fire in the USA, believes the coming composite-based commercial airliners will require airport fire departments to change the way they fight post-impact fires. DIA is not yet served by the Airbus A380, the only commercial plane flying with more than component parts made out of composites, and the airport is not slated to be among the first served by the Boeing 787—due to enter service in early 2010.

But a platoon captain with the Los Angeles Fire Department stationed at LAX Airport, one of two US airports currently receiving service from an airliner with substantial composite construction (the A380; New York’s JFK is the other), says his airport follows substantially the same guidelines established for fighting post-impact fires of current generation airplanes.

And Boeing told the airport authorities at Everett, WA’s, Paine Field, where the 787 will perform its flight testing, that there isn’t any effective difference between a composite airplane and a traditional one.

Bill Davis, assistant fire chief of the Denver Fire Department assigned to the Denver International Airport, believes tactics have to be changed after reviewing the post-impact fire analysis of the US Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2A bomber in Guam February 23, 2008. The USAF issued its crash report in June 2008.

“This will fundamentally change everything from strategy and tactics and equipment,” Davis said. “It strikes me that we’re definitely going to have to train to and equip ourselves differently. I’ve studied fires in military composites. This (B-2A crash) is the first of an all-composite airplane; usually, there are just parts that are composites.”

787 is like any other airplane

David Waggoner, the airport director at Paine Field, said that Boeing advised the airport fire officials to “treat the 787 like any other airplane. The fire department has been briefed by Boeing and they said not all composites act the same. The 787 composites don’t act the same as the composites in the B-2.”

In a statement to Leeham.net, Boeing had this to say:

Boeing has done extensive testing on the properties of the composite materials being used on board the 787 and its reaction in both in-flight fire and post-crash fire scenarios. Boeing has found – and by law must demonstrate to the FAA – that the 787 will be as safe, or safer than, today’s airplanes. The composites used on the 787 demonstrate performance that meets those requirements. Our testing also shows emergency responders will not need special gear, equipment or knowledge to effectively deal with a 787 event.

Among our findings in testing using FAA-approved methodologies were:
• The composite materials used for the 787 do not propagate an in-flight fire.
• The fuselage skin is an excellent fire barrier and resists flame penetration far longer than an aluminum fuselage
• The toxic gas levels produced in a post-crash fire scenario are similar for both a composite fuselage and an aluminum fuselage
• There was no prolonged burning or re-ignition of the composite skin after tests were completed.

Capt. Rich Hanson, station commander of Platoon C at one of the four fire stations located at LAX Airport, said that every aircraft has some composite. “Quantity doesn’t make a difference, not really—you use the same firefighting components.”

LAX uses what’s called Purple K, a dry power injected into the turrets that chemically puts out the fire and cools it.

Hanson said that Airbus and Boeing provided LAX with information “about how we can best attack a fire. Even with composites, it’s really not that much different than what we do anyway. Our first concern is the passengers, and we deal with any fire as hazmat and have a decontamination process before getting to the hospital.”

Continental 737 crash

At Denver International Airport, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 aborted its take-off December 21, 2008, left the runway and caught fire. All on board escaped but 38 passengers were injured. The 737 was destroyed by the fire. (A Continental Connection Bombardier Q400 since then crashed into a house on approach to the Buffalo, NY, airport.)

The 737 is the standard metal fuselage that has been used on commercial airliners since the introduction of the Ford Tri-Motor in 1925. The new 787, scheduled to enter flight testing during the second quarter this year, has a composite fuselage, with approximately 50% of the airplane by weight made out of composites. The proposed Airbus A350, with a planned entry-into-service in 2013, also has a composite fuselage with 53% of the airplane by weight being composite.

With these two airplanes gathering all the headlines, overlooked is that the A380 has already entered service. The super-jumbo’s rear fuselage, comprising 25% of the airplane’s weight, is made of composite materials.

As the 787 proceeds on its final countdown toward its flight-test program, certification and delivery, the debate over the safety, flammability and survivability of its composite fuselage continues at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Industry engineers concerned about the safety of the airplane continue to file reports and documents with the agency and whether the FAA has done—and is doing—enough to ensure the safety of passengers in the event of a crash and post-impact fire.

The high-profile 787 gets this attention because of its revolutionary all-composite fuselage, the open comment process that is part of the FAA procedures, the media obsession with anything involving commercial aviation safety and the embarrassing production difficulties that makes the 787 fodder for minutiae reporting.

Composites not new–only the quantity

Composites have been on airplanes for decades, as the two fire officials pointed out. Wing-to-body fairings, rudders, and—on the Airbus A300-600 and A310—the entire tail sections are composites. Interior components contain composites.

But planes built largely of composites aren’t new, either. Furthermore, although widespread, some autos have been built of composites, notably some race cars. Firefighters have had to deal with blazes involving composites for decades.

Beech built the Starship personal aircraft out of composite materials and its successor, Raytheon, built the Premier business jet out of the same materials. No Starship crashed and burned and there were a few Premier accidents involving fires. New, personal jets such as the Eclipse, have composite fuselages. Airliners with composite components have crashed and burned. But with the development of the 787, and the FAA certification process, the prospect of a major accident and fire received some headlining attention. Dan Rather, the former CBS anchorman who was disgraced in a reporting scandal over ex-President George W. Bush’s military service record, went to HDNet, an obscure start-up cable network, and put together a long story on 787 composite safety. He relied upon a former Boeing engineer who, while raising legitimate questions, nonetheless was largely discounted because it was the recently embarrassed Rather who reported the story.

The focus on the current debate is the sheer volume, the entire fuselage, of composites on the 787, and whether firefighters, passengers and anyone downwind might be at risk of burn rates and toxicity associated with composites.

Skeptics about composites

Another engineer, who did not participate in the Rather report, whose expertise is composites, continued to pepper the FAA with comments about the 787 well into this year. Derek Yates has a long list of correspondence with the FAA. Yates has urged the FAA to require fire testing with an entire center fuselage section to assess burn and hazmat issues. He believes the burn rate and toxicity issues with composites elevate the levels of danger to first responders and passengers alike, and cites the USAF B-2A analysis as evidence. FAA standards and Boeing tests so far have been inadequate, he believes.

Jim Helms, of the engineering consulting firm TATSCO and a former FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative, does not believe an Advanced Carbon Material airplane meets flammability airworthiness standards. He believes the danger so great that, radically, he thinks the entire 787 program should be canceled. Helms recently published a four-page analysis, Part 1 of 2, newsletter looking at the pros and cons of composites. This may be downloaded: TATSCO Composite Newsletter.

B-2 composite airplane crash

The issue of a large airplane composite fire took on new meaning with a real-life example, rather than a theoretical test, when the B-2A bomber crashed and burned on take-off at a US military base in Guam. The billion-dollar aircraft stalled in an extreme nose-up attitude right after take-off and pancaked into the ground. The crew ejected safely; the airplane caught fire on impact. The entire accident was captured on a security camera. The cause of the crash was determined to be a critical instrument failure.

Boeing was a sub-contractor on the B-2 program, giving the company intimate knowledge of composites.

The B-2 accident was the first of a large composite airplane; the B-2’s empty weight is 158,000 lbs (slightly smaller than a Boeing 767-200) vs 252,000 lbs for the 787-8, 796,000 lbs for the A380 and 382,500 lbs for the A350-800.

The Air Force’s post-impact fire analysis reports that firefighters began pouring water on the B-2 bomber less than three minutes after the accident. Within 30 minutes, every firefighter on the base—53 of them—and all apparatus was on the scene. Four fire trucks were brought in from off base. The fire burned for 4-6 hours and, in the words of the report, the “complete combustion event did not end until day two and possibly day three.”

The base’s fire department used 83,000 gallons of water and 2,500 gallons of aqueous film-forming foam “with not much success in completely putting out the final combustion stage.”

Chief Davis, the Denver Airport fire official, said the use of 83,000 gallons of water was an astonishing amount. His firefighters used far less on the 737-500 (which at 103,000 lbs empty weight is 46% smaller than the B-2).

“We used 12,000 gallons, and that was an excessive amount of water and foam” Davis said. “We did because I had the luxury of it. We could have been effective with close to half that amount.”

The large amount of water required to put out the fire on the B-2 means airports have to rethink how they provide water supplies for firefighting, said Davis.

“Water supply and agent conservation will be at a premium for fighting a composite aircraft. They went through tons of water, 83,000 gallons of water,” Davis said. “That’s a huge amount of water. Most every airport would have to have one of two things: hydrants throughout the airport or a very, very large Airport Resource Firefighting apparatus (ARF),” a truck with extremely large water capacity, and a very sophisticated shuttle operation.

Air Force report

The Air Force’s report concluded that “There was a change in the nature of burning as JP-8 was consumed. The aircraft structure continued to burn. The fire scenario could be explained in four distinct combustion stages: 1) 20-30 minutes for the JP-8 flaming combustion. 2) 4-6 hours for aircraft structure flaming combustion which transitioned to intermittent flare-up at random locations across the aircraft. 3). 24 hours into the initial response, cool down was taking place through composite-thickness with indications of deep-seated smoldering and 4) 48 hours into the initial response, the final cool-down stage was reached with a hint of light smoke being released.”

By comparison, the Continental 737 fire was knocked down quickly and hot spots occurred over a much short time span, Denver’s Davis said.

The initial body of fire was very significant and it was knocked down almost immediately. “The exterior fire knocked was down within a minute by large caliber monitors 1200 GPM turrets as far as the large body of fire on the right side of the aircraft,” Davis said. “But there was still a significant fire underneath the aircraft and in the interior.”

The interior fire was knocked down within 15 minutes of response notification using 1 ¾ inch hoses and flowing A triple F foam.

The Continental accident occurred at 6:18 pm; there was a rekindling about 4am.

Each crash in unique

LAX’s Hanson didn’t draw a comparison with previous LAX accidents with the B-2A fire, but he pointed out that crashes involving conventional metal airplanes can have their own challenges. In a highly unusual accident in 1991, a US Air Boeing 737 landed on top of a SkyWest Airlines 19-seat Metro commuter plane waiting to take off on the same runway. The resulting fire took a long time to get the fire out because firefighters couldn’t get to smaller aircraft underneath the 737.

Hanson said that one of the things that emerged from this crash was the acquisition of a snozzle, a fire truck with a 50 ft articulating boom with hardened steel tip and titanium barrel that can penetrate the skin of the aircraft when the barrel is extended.

Snozzle of the Ft. Worth (TX) Fire Department. Source: Bensware.com.

Penetrating the skin of a metal or composite aircraft requires high-pressure water. The two snozzles used by LAX are capable of 25,000 psi. A standard metal aircraft, such as those in service today, requires 5,000 psi to penetrate the skin. Hanson says the GLARE composition used on portions of the A380 requires 6,000 psi and Boeing advised its 787 fuselage requires 8,000 psi. GLARE is a combination of aluminum and composite material.

Once the skin is penetrated, the snozzle’s barrel can be inserted into the airplane, discharging 250 gallons per minute, enough to hold the fire until firefighters can get the hand lines in.

“The biggest concern we had with composite is when you penetrate the fuselage, the direction of the fibers pushing in would grab the barrel. Boeing has done testing and found that isn’t a concern,” Hanson said.

Unexpected time to put out fire

The B-2 fire reached temperatures of 900-1,700 degrees, depending on the location, the Air Force concluded. JP-8 fireballs can reach temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees.

The Air Force concluded that the “length of time needed to extinguish the fire and cool the aircraft was unexpected.” The report noted that the lengthy duration required trucks to leave the scene for water, “interrupting the suppression or cool-down process, allowing heat to penetrate and burn through thickness (layer-by-layer). Without having adequate water pressure or a water source nearby, the structure was not continuously cooled through composite thickness….”

The Air Force explained that the nature of composite construction lay behind the lengthy fire and smoldering. The layer-by-layer manufacturing to the desired shape and thickness, made up of resin-coating fibers, causes the flames to burn through layer-by-layer. “Cooling or flame suppression occurs in the same manner.”

“During the initial response, the aircraft composite material concern is the resin, not carbon fiber,” the Air Force said.

Davis, the Denver fire chief, expressed concern about the particulates emitted in a composite fire.

Toxic smoke

“The smoke that comes off a composite fire is extremely toxic. The difference between [metal and composite fires] is you also get those fibers. When the composite is degraded by the fire, it releases physical fibers that become airborne and are extremely carcinogenic. It’s as bad or worse than asbestos,” Davis said.

LAX’s Hanson also compared composite fibers with asbestos and said LAX firefighters have to treat composites within the department’s Standard Operating Guidelines.

The Air Force also noted that “aircraft composite fires differ from metal aircraft fires because they add fuel to the fire by increasing the fuel load. In order to extinguish a composite fire, firefighters have to consider the composite thickness and maintaining a continuous supply of agent.” The Air Force recommended specific composite firefighting training.

The post-crash environmental clean-up is also a concern. Davis said DIA moved tons of dirt for environmental cleanup, with a large amount of fuel soaking into the ground—the plane was fueled for take-off, as was the B-2A. DIA dug a 24 ft hole to remove dirt.

The B-2’s composite structure poses additional hazards. The Air Force conducted repeated tests of the surrounding ground and air to determine if there were any hazardous materials from the composites remaining after the fire.

Denver’s Davis also notes that new firefighting equipment will be needed to deal with composite airplane crashes. New gear will be needed to cut, move and pry the composites, which have different properties than metal. New techniques will have to be adopted as a result of the toxicity of the composite smoke and particulates, especially the airborne fibers.

FAA’s Special Conditions

The Federal Aviation Administration imposed special conditions on the 787 testing that Boeing has to meet in order to certify the 787. Among them are conditions relating to composite burning and fire.

In response to questions for this article, the FAA said it is “aware of the B-2 accident, although as is often the case with accidents involving military aircraft, we do not know what payload or other items were carried on the airplane that may have contributed to the sustained fire.”

The FAA noted that “there is already extensive use of composite materials on commercial airplanes. On the exterior, fairings are often composite, as well as certain control surfaces. In addition, the interiors have for many years used significant amounts of composite materials. Therefore, virtually any post crash fire that threatens survivability will involve composite materials.

“The standards that the FAA has established for the 787 are intended to provide sufficient time for occupants to safely evacuate the airplane following an emergency situation. FAA research shows that the composite fuselage material significantly increases the time it takes for a post-crash fire to burn through to the interior, which increases the time for occupants to evacuate before the exterior fire can endanger them.”

As for environmental and firefighting issues, the FAA says this is beyond its scope for certification.

“The concerns raised regarding fire fighting and potential environmental ramifications of composite airframes are not airworthiness issues. Nonetheless, the FAA is working with the Air Force on future studies to assess these and other post-crash fire topics that are outside the airworthiness approval process. At this point, we can’t forecast where these studies may lead.”

LAX’s Hanson said, “We feel very comfortable with our ability to deal with a fire in any of the current of upcoming aircraft. Boeing knows what our resources are and in discussion with their training people I am very comfortable we are where we need to be to deal with an incident at LAX.”

Airbus, like Boeing, was asked February 5 by Leeham.net to respond to the B-2A USAF post-impact fire analysis. We’re still waiting for a response.

The USAF post-impact fire analysis may be downloaded: B-2A Post-Impact Fire Analysis. 6 pages, PDF.

192 Comments on “JAL A350 ground collision is first hull loss by damage and fire of an all-composite airplane

    • Sorry, Joe (George Kennedy) apparently died in 2016 at the age of 91. RIP.

    • Did Joe get upgraded and become a pilot? From pushing a jet outta the snow to sitting in the cockpit.

      Happens all the time…

      • You don’t know Joe………………….I believe he was in Airport or Airline management too.

        • Additionally, Joe would be flabbergasted at a new 737-9 MAX that loses an emergency exit at 19,000 feet. But all the facts might not be in as of the present.

  1. While lessons will be learnt from this, a lot of things went very well as all the A350 pax & crew got out. Condolences to the Japanese Coast Guard crew families and friends.

    • Agreed.

      Truly sorry for the perished Coast Guard crew and their families, its very good the A350 pax and crew made it.

  2. First, a moment of silence for the Coasties lost in their aircraft. In the PNW, Coasties are a revered group of aviators that have a hard time picking up their bar tabs because the Crabbers line up to do it for them. I’m sure they are the same in Japan, God bless them.

    The fact that the A350 was unloaded without fatalities is a small miracle. This miracle is the confluence of Phenomenal Crew Performance, good exit design, decades of flammability rules and testing for interior aircraft components and in this case Human Behavior. Everybody got off because they, as a group, made it happen. The Japanese are raised with an understanding that they need to be prepared for a disaster. Japanese school kids practice earthquake preparedness from a young age, it centers around leaving the building in a rapid but safe manner while LEAVING BEHIND personal items. I bet you when they roll the tape on this accident, not 1 piece of luggage was carried out…… Time matters and seconds can be like days. There is a heart wrenching vid of the Sukhoi accident when the burning airplane is being evacuated by people carrying their bags off the forward airplane slides while those trapped in the back died. On this A350, Appropriate Human Behavior greatly aided by great exit design and materials choices won the day. We shouldn’t take this for granted. God smiled today on the A350 occupants and we should use this as a lesson of just how quickly we can go from routine to apocalyptic

  3. A lot of data will come out of this, a large scale, composite fuselage complete burn out.

    An aircraft with limitted fuel in the tanks that is. But with a high density cabin, high load factor and instant fire situation. https://www.jal.co.jp/jp/en/aircraft/conf/359.html

    Seems the JAL crew/ passengers did a good job anyway. RIP to the coast guard crew.

    • According to video footage just 3 out of 8 exits were used for evacuation. The two front doors on both sides and the rear left door.

      A video report by BBC video showed the right engine still turning while the evacution happpend.

      Great situation awarness by the crew!

      Condolences to all victims, their families and friends.

      • There are also reports in Japanese media that just 1 exit was actually used. Nothing authoritative as yet.

        I’ve not yet absorbed the totality of this article, but it’s clear that the all-round thinking that’s gone into the design and operation of modern airlines does seem to have borne fruit; that everyone got off that A350 alive is, well, astonishing. All those involved – engineers through crew trainers – have worked at the pinnacle of human endeavour.

        • They also said people did not go into the overheads for their travel-on luggage. I sure hope that is true. If so, that would re-invigorate my hope for humanity.

  4. Haenda ATC might feel bad and sorry as well. Sounds like there are similarities between this A350 and the B-2 composite fire. Procedures and equipment will probably change after this accident. There does not seems to be a continous supply of bigger and bigger firetrucks onto the scene. This accident is a bit different as it was an external firesource of a probably fully fueld Q400. I would assume the certification testing requirements are from an internal fire source or one burning engine.

  5. At about 1 minute into the video included in the post, the A350 appears damaged (collapsed gear, belly and engine scrape damage) but largely intact, with no external fire apparent, and firefighters are standing on foam covered ground directing handlines toward an internal cabin fire; however, the stream from their handlines appears to be not quite reaching the area of the cabin fire and to be not penetrating into the cabin. I find it somewhat surprising that with no external fuel pool fire at this point in time, and firefighters already on scene, the aircraft cabin ended up pretty much burning completely through. Note to regulators reviewing the the reduced exterior skin to fuel tank crush space and insulation, and reduced fuel tank to cabin floor crush space and insulation of the A321XLR internal tank, this illustrates the importance of keeping fires out of the aircraft fuselage until AFTER the airport fire trucks have arrived. In the 2016 crash of an old fashioned metal FedEx DC-10 firefighters arrived after a wing fuel tank explosion and with a fuel pool and engine fire in progress, but were able to keep the fire from penetrating the fuselage (see the link below). When the accident report for today’s crash comes out, it will be interesting to see what accounted for today’s failure to keep the fire from breaching the fuselage.


    • Isn’t this just changed focus?

      What of the plane could have been saved?
      A: job of the crew was evacuating all PAX and CREW in the allotted time frame.
      B: job of the firefighting crew to keep the fire at bay till A was achieved.

      Note that over active firecrews in ?LA? running over already save PAX to get to the hot place.

      differences in culture.

    • In the 2015 British Airways 777-200ER engine failure and aborted takeoff in Las Vegas, fire crews arrived with an engine and fuel pool fire in progress, and as was the case with FedEx 910, but unlike in todays incident in Japan, were able to extinguish the fire before large scale fire penetration into the cabin occurred. See the link below.


    • “At about 1 minute into the video included in the post, the A350 appears damaged (collapsed gear, belly and engine scrape damage) but largely intact, with no external fire apparent, and firefighters are standing on foam covered ground directing handlines toward an internal cabin fire.”

      Watching that video, what those particular firefighters were doing was essentially useless. You can’t effectively fight an interior fire by directing a handline at the exterior of the aircraft.

      I’d like to know why the interior was on fire – I’m presuming the Coast guard aircraft must have penetrated the A350 on the opposite side from what we could see and somehow fuel got in back there. If that was the case, the firefighters should have been trying to fight the interior fire from the other side of the aircraft – if they had access.

    • According to the video footage I saw A350 fuselage was not intact after the incident. The nose wheels were gone and the forward fuselage was ground on the runway with fuel of the Dash-8 illuminating the area.

      Guess how many fuel there might be left inside the new permanent Rear Centre Tank (RCT) on an A321XLR at landing?

      The best way to keept the fire out is an intact fuselage. Just search for B737 runway excursions and count how often you get a B737 in three pieces.

  6. “burning down layer by layer”

    Functional basics for any ablative heat shield.
    Thus the observed result is unsurprising.

    B2 is a full size of plane wingbox.
    I suppose there is not much in the way of low layer count structure.

    Now coming to the spoil sport thing:

    This crash/destruction will avail much useful data
    on well designed cert conforming airliners.

    Will it be valid for the product of an entity well known for skimping on requirements?

    • Not the least surprised by the comment sadly.

      People write this stuff and then they get in a car and expose themselves to vastly higher risk, at home, in the office, out and about.

      Next we will have the same author insisting that an aircraft can do a nose dive into the ground with no one hurt as the fuselage has a huge spring built into it.

      And as one author here noted correctly, getting passengers out is the prime directive, not fighting the fire (oh sorry mam, you just stay in here while I play this hose around while blocking the exit for all)

      Nothing is ever going to be perfect. Anyone that thinks that has another think coming.

      But despite the plane on plane collision, the A350 held together well enough and it had enough exits that non fire blo0cked exit evacuation was achieved, 100%. Say that again, 100%. Stunning, beyond stunning.

      The real bottom line is why were two aircraft on the same runway? That has been a common them lately and it needs to get a handle on it and stopped.

      You can’t design around two aircraft colliding (on the ground). You have layers of safety that does not happen. Repeat, that does not happen.

    • The comment is laden with the irony of laypersons questioning the validity of lessons learned and incorporated into the certification requirements for “…an entity well known for skimping on requirements” when “well known” is an exaggerated and self-serving declaration by news agencies with a demonstrated track record of incompetence in understanding those requirements, compounded by a vested interest in falsifying information to generate sensational click-bait headlines. The compounded ease with which plausible techno-nonsense is thereby generated and disseminated is not noticeable by the trusting but similarly incompetent and gullible lay public who then spread the misinformation under the ego-flattering belief that overnight they have acquired a valid and in-depth education in a complex subject and can pretend to be experts in the same, protected by the relative anonymity the internet provides. And so, as Mark Twain observed, a lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

      • In the end your post is the self serving perfect example for your own screed. Think about recursive .-)))

  7. One interesting note is the use of AFFF for fighting the fires.

    AFFF is not an expanding type foam like you see used in some Military Hangars where it fills the space. It seals off the surface with a few inches of foam, breaking the oxygen source.

    I had extensive experience with that agent though I only got to see it actually used in testing with fire pans to prove coverage in a Hangar.

    I don’t think that is the right agent for fighting that type of aircraft fire.

    The use I worked with was to protect the hangar. We had 750,000 gallons of water for that use as well as 10,000 gallons of AFFF

    I do know of one hangar fire that the water supply was not adequate, the engineering assumption were wrong. They saved it by getting additional water to the hangar via a manual feed system.

    Our system would auto fill but due to the nature of auto fill, it was restricted to a low flow, the drill was to open the manual bypass and get as much water flowing as possible.

    I saw the report on an oil tank fire that the engineering also was wrong on. They pulled all the foam in from 300 miles around before they got it snuffed.

    Even with examples, translating one situation into another is a engineering hazard. You do the best you can and then improve it when or if you get a real world example.a

    In our case, they also put in sprinklers down the steel commons to protect them (these were not a general release but indivual heat release to save water)

    It turned out they were not needed more than enough water came down the columns to keep them cool. Other than maint issues they did not hurt anything, so i9n that case it was over engineered.

    Another example is a fire I fought when I was flagged down by the USPS Delivery guy (out in the middle of no where).

    He had seen smoke coming up out of a house, he wanted to stay but he also needed to not leave his mail.

    I was the first once on scene, he got a couple others and they sent him off.

    The fire had started inside a wall (very old house, no insulation). I was able to access the fire from under the house and a larger and larger group stopped and they fed me fire extinguishers. It was slowing down but not stopping it.

    As it was gaining I had to tell the group that they needed to get the house contents out, I could hold it back but it was gaining fast.

    At that point one larger group started a line and moving contents, another was feeing me fire extinguisher as people stopped and brought them in.

    The guy who saved the situation knew the area and that there was a small creek out back of the house and he got buckets of water moving to me.

    That is all it took water stuck to the wood, dry chemical did not. I was able to throw water up into the wall and got most of it.

    We then got tools and opened up the wall and killed all the embers and made sure it was not going to re-ignite.

    Dry chemical will not stick to a vertical surface. Wet ones would.

    If you just make an assumption on a fire fighting method, its possibly flawed unless you actually test it and use what is right for that situation.

    Clearly once a CRFP fuselage catches fire all you do is contain it and maybe that is all that can be done.

    But unless someone tests all the types of foam you won’t know. And then you have to determine if that foam works on standard aircraft as there are and will continue to be a lot of those. And then if different how do you manage it?

    That may created a dilema but you won’t know unless its tested and I don’t see it has. LA uses Purple K, SFO uses foam and it may be expanding foam is the best.

    • Note that AFFF per Lehman stands for Aqueous FILM Forming Foam.

      That is different than Purple K, Expanding Foam and it appears no one has tested what is the best foam or chemical.

    • I am a member in our local fire fighting unit.

      I’ve yet to see foam used in a reasonable, productive (dousing a fire) fashion.

  8. Anyone who has watched the full HND live cam video would know:
    1. as I understand, the Dash 8-300 burst into a fireball upon collision,
    2. it looks like the fire for the A350 is caused by jet fuel of the Dash 8-300,
    3. the Dash 8-300, with a conventional fuselage didn’t fare any better than a composite aircraft(!)

    • I found it strangely “interesting”
      that most news outlets wrote that
      “an 350 caught fire”
      and only mentioning the involved JCG plane at the very end.

  9. One never wants an A350 loaded with pax to hit another aircraft on the runway. Period. This accident, despite the loss of 5 souls was VERY, VERY fortunate. As TWA stated, why was the plane there for what?……….20-30 seconds and ATC not know it?

    The A350 hit the Dash 8 at the right spot, the nose. Again, condolences to the 5 souls loss. But I rather have the bigger and heavier A350 run over the Dash 8, take out the nose wheel and skid to a stop and giving time for all the pax to leave the aircraft (kudos to Japanese flyers leaving their carryon and getting off the plane and the crew directing them). Rather than the A350 nose miss the Dash 8 tail or fuselage and one of the RRs ingest and wing collide with the Dash 8. That scenario does not end well. The reason the word “Miracle” is being thrown around by the media.

    Who cares how long did it take the CF to burn. Why did a Dash 8 sit on the runway for 20-30 before occupying the same space at the same time with a A350 and ATC did not know about it?

    • I agree with Williams. Other than containing the fire the hull is lost anyway. Same thing with our Hangar, it was about saving the building not the aircraft.

      As the Safety guy told us, once you heat the skin of an aircraft up past a certain temp, its gone. Ergo, most of those type fires are interior aircraft in origin .

      There is some weird stuff going on with the Coast Guard Aircraft. Have to see if its confirmed but it is reported to have left its parking spot an hour before the crash.

      It also appears it was some way down the runway, possibly at an intersection. so just ????? right now.

      As far as the fuselage as long as it stays intact and people can get out, that is a huge plus for safety and regs.

      Is the smoke inside enough to overcome pax? In this case no, so that is a bonus.

      I know of one crash that the autopsies showed most died from smoke inhalation from toxic materials (before they started to address that)

      The important point is not that CRFP burns, that is a given, does it resist the flames long enough for the Pax and crew to get out if its a survivable crash.

      Toxic fumes are no joking matter but its not the end of the world (ruptured Nuke plants on the other hand………………..)

  10. Coming to America soon if something isn’t done about the ATC situation

  11. Two methods of fighting an engine fire.

    Method one – have one firefighter stand next to the burning engine and spray it with a handline.


    End result of method 1.


    Method 2 – deluge the burning engine with multiple high output retardant cannons operated by remote control from inside the protection of fire trucks.


    End result of method #2.


    • AP Robert…… Fire suppression is sometimes not well understood by the public. When there is nothing to save, there is no need to place firefighters in harms way. The end result will be the same with or without intervention. There is no life risk by allowing the vehicle to burn itself out. In many cases it makes for a more environmentally friendly outcome. Adding more runoff to the situation when you achieve nothing beyond spreading the contamination field is a lousy decision. There are many factors to consider other than “its still on fire”. I suspect you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s fine……..

    • Japanese using the “cortical pause” technique 🙂

      reflexive and excessive application of force is an
      US culture thing. You see that in several domains.
      politics, police, military and firefighting.

      running over already escaped PAX was a careless thing to do.(LA,Korean)

      • Uwe:

        I would suggest bagging the cultural stuff, or if its open game per Scott then tell us where you are from so we can show the dirt there.

  12. The JAL A350 fire took about as long to put out as the B-2 fire that Mr. Hamilton discussed in his post.

    From Mr. Hamilton’s post.

    “The Air Force’s post-impact fire analysis reports that firefighters began pouring water on the B-2 bomber less than three minutes after the accident. Within 30 minutes, every firefighter on the base—53 of them—and all apparatus was on the scene. Four fire trucks were brought in from off base. The fire burned for 4-6 hours and, in the words of the report, the “complete combustion event did not end until day two and possibly day three.”

    The base’s fire department used 83,000 gallons of water and 2,500 gallons of aqueous film-forming foam “with not much success in completely putting out the final combustion stage.”

    From the AP story at the link below.

    “As firefighters tried to put out the blaze with streams of water, the area around the passenger plane’s wing caught fire. The flames spread throughout the plane, which eventually collapsed. The fire was extinguished after about six hours.”


  13. Personally, I was impressed by the structural resilience of the airframe under both high speed skidding along the runway from what appears to be touch down to a stop with no nose gear, to the time it took for the panels to burn through, and loose integrity.

    You could see fire light highlight the supporting frame structure as well as the panels themselves and window frames. I was surprised it held up for the time it did,and it does seem comparable to Aluminium frames.

    Video from the cabin (can’t fathom how people reach for their phones when a plane of on fire), seemed to show low levels of smoke inside compared to the exterior.

    My initial thoughts were that the fire was from components of the Dash 8 that may have been dragged down under the a350, and along the runway, but that remains to be seen.

    Lots to learn, commiserations to the crew of the dash, and gratitude to the JAL crew and emergency folks for a job well done.

    • Hello Fergal Sherlock,

      Re: “My initial thoughts were that the fire was from components of the Dash 8 that may have been dragged down under the a350, and along the runway, but that remains to be seen.”

      I have been looking for evidence of this in videos or photographs that I have seen, but have yet to see any such evidence. In the videos that I have seen there is a large fireball at what appears to be the point of collision, and although the A350 is trailing light and/or flame as it moves down the runway (as is typical for a non wheeled object scrapping along the ground at high speed leaking fuel) the larger fireball does not move down the runway with the A350.

      The pictures below show large concentrations of the wreckage of the coast guard plane at an area far removed from where the JAL A350 came to a stop. I have been looking for , but have not seen, any pieces of the coast guard plane mixed in with the A350 wreckage, before or after it burn to the ground.



        • Good analysis was done by Juan Brown and noted that both inside engine cowlings on the A350 were sliced.

          The wingspan of the Dash 8 would be at that point putting it squarely on the Runway.

          I have watched a lot of those missed communitciaon and I think its time for a update. Any time you are going to taxi onto a runway, there should be a double confirmation.

          Piper 61Z, Tower you are cleared to go onto Runway 180 and takeoff.

          Tower, Piper 61Z, I understand I am cleared onto Runway 180 and cleared to takeoff.

          Piper 61Z, Tower, confirmation 2, you are cleared onto Runway 180 and cleaered for takeoff.

          Tower, Piper 61Z, read back of confirmation 2, I am cleared onto Runway 180 and cleared for takeoff.

    • Similar though different is fibre glass. I gather that, once, a fibre glass wrapped pressure vessel in the engine room of an RN mine hunter survived a fire without letting go.

      Perhaps there’s just something inherently fire-resistant in a fibre – plastic composite.

    • IMU that is not contested.

      Currently open is the clearance situation for the JCG plane. ( going by stuff posted on A.net >14:00 UT )

      • Normally a light plane like a DHC dash 8 waiting on taxiway would be cleared for takeoff before a ‘heavy’ like the A350 as there would have to be a longer delay if it landed first due to the wake turbulence. The A350 has a long flight path to the runway so would have been on that approach for some time.

        • yes for both outgoing.

          here we have the A350 incoming
          and the DHC8 outgoing.

          I wonder if going over the visible landing light trace in my video ref. could give some information about where the A350 would have touched down.
          before, ON or after the position of the DHC8.

        • There is no NORMALLY

          If the spacing is not correct, a light aircraft is not allowed on the Runway, period. It has nothing to do with heavy or light and all to do with spacing.

          A Cessna 150 at 100 knots will have a different time as the spacing is dependent on how fast the aircraft is (Jets at 150 kts cover the ground quicker, time speed distance)

          If the spacing (time) allows it, of course you can take off before a heavy, medium, light or an ultra light but you are not allowed nor should you ever have two air craft on and approaching a runway at the same time.

          Yes I have seen Tower approve and aircraft onto a runway they should not have, based on, oh, they will be gone.

          But said aircraft dawdled and if you are going to dawdle then you do not go onto the runway.

          • Of course any two planes arent supposed to be on runway AT same time.
            Just the takeoff approval for a light plane at a busy airport would normally happen before not after a heavy because of the wake turbulence a heavy leaves behind ( in air and on landing).
            At my local airport I usually see the TPs enter the runway earlier from a taxiway while jets all line up at the waiting positions at end of taxiways ( and even there theres a bypass lane where I saw a smaller jet use for immediate takeoff before the heavy waiting ahead).
            This is a simple single runway- but two parallel taxiways for
            separate leaving and arriving- layout.

            The tower should have noticed a plane on the runway and given the JAL a go around message. Haneda has a complex system of two parallel and 2 oblique but parallel runways which means keeping close watch on the planes on taxiways is essential

  14. ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NbVdIoJsHY

    After the initial crash the moving A350 drags a long line of fiery stuff. ( Bow to wing, engine is framed by light )
    Could that have been a wing from the Dash8? ( The burn site of the JCG plane shows no chunky residues like engines.)
    someone notes that the Dash8 fsuelage would have fit under the wing of an A350 ( not the tail though.)

    • I have read that, I don’t know, if the A350 nose misses the fuselage and the engine and wing makes contact instead…………….Yeash.

      What was the angle of the A350 when it hit the Dash 8? Was the nose still up?

      • I see pictures of the nose of the A350 caved in.

        I suspect it had set down and the nose was on or very close to the ground and hit the vertial tail on the Dash 8

        Wings of the Dash 8 look to have sliced the inside of the A350

        I believe the Dash 8 went onto the Runway at Charlie 6 intersection. There should be an indicator when an aircraft breaks the red line.

        Charlie 6 is 1000 feet from the touchdown zone.

        Also of interest is the Displaced Threshold that the aircraft lands further down the runway (have to look into that and why its there)

        • ( see my video ref )

          while viewing it looks like the A350 landing lights follow the straight but angled approach flight path till they merge with the crash flash.
          The flaming continuation to the left then is on a horizontal path.
          i.e. my guess is that touch down will have been at or slightly before the collision point.
          bow slightly up, coming down?

          • Will be interesting getting into the details. Was the pilots using differential braking to stay centered on the runway?

  15. From NHK:
    “All 379 passengers and crew used *three* emergency exits. The last person got out at 6:05 P.M. A woman who took a picture while evacuating said the airplane was still intact when all the passengers got out, but the fuselage collapsed as they boarded a bus.”

    “The transport ministry released on Wednesday the transcript of communication between air traffic control and two aircraft.”

  16. Looks like the outer portion of the wings are superficially intact.
    Does that include the integrity of the (outer) wing tankage? ( on the A350 the center tank reaches a bit into the wings )
    (and/or) did fuel there drain into the middle
    feeding the fuselage fire?

    Was the center wing box and tankage initially intact?

    • Look at the burnt-out wreck, the wings and wing box seem unscathed. Very fortunate.

    • “over 730 deliveries for Airbus in 2023”, exceeding their target of 720. Along with 2,000
      new orders, that’s nice work.

      I wonder how the Other Guys did; I understand they had some loose / missing bolts to contend with in their MAXes which might’ve slowed them up a touch.

      • Me thinks Boeing is not just having missing nuts and loose bolts in its aircraft.

      • “Accident(s)” does/do happen. One had more than the other. Make you think whether it’s misfortune or one being more sloppy.

  17. The runway conflicts have gotten out of hand and rather than repeat the same o same o, it is time to come up with a different approach (pun intended)

    Radio calls and transmissions have always been fraught with peril as its easy to make mistakes, assumptions or per-conceived bias as to what the transmission was and often cut off as they are all working on the same frequency.

    As someone said about shipping, they are still using Fax. I have had some need to move documents back and forth and its come down to, how about email and a PDF? Uhh yeah, that is preferred. Then why are you using a fax?

    While there are many ways, I am throwing out using a TEXT system. Printed, full in front, you can refer back to it, all right in front of your face. And it should go both ways.

    There is a compounding aspect of Keep it Going Itis here. The runway control system for a bunch of Taxi Ways was out of commission (the stop lights were not working).

    In that case default to a rigorous double and triple check standard and only until you can get a TEXT system working.

    We can follow sleds dogs teams across the wilds of Alaska but we can’t keep track of aircraft on the ground and designate an alarm when they violate where they are cleared to be?

  18. I guess the accident was a combination of many human factors.

    – The coast guard crew being where they shouldn’t be
    – The coast guards were on a non regular (aid) flight, were they briefed properly
    – The JAL crew not noticing the (small) Dash8 on the big runway ahead of them
    – ATC not preventing/ noticing the runway incursion


    • Hello keesje,

      The following can be added to your list of factors involves in the Haneda runway collision.

      “Critical runway warning lights that warn pilots not to proceed onto an active runway were unserviceable at Haneda Airport and are the focus of crash investigators looking into the accident on Tuesday night in which five people died.

      However, there was a Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) warning that the that critical Stop Bar Lighting were unserviceable for a series of taxiway to runway junctions (C1 to C14).

      Did the Coast Guard pilot assume he could enter the runway as there were no Stop Bar warning lights on (Below Images)? Did the Coast Guard crew read the NOTAM?

      We know that ATC issued the instruction to Taxi and Hold, which was read back. Was the pilot confused about his location and thought he was still on a taxiway as no red warning lights were telling him not to proceed?”


    • @Keejse

      That last point in particular. 20-30 seconds sitting on an active runway and ATC did not notice.

  19. Someone extracted the timing from an available video ( ref: https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1490191&start=950#p24096987 )
    0:00 plane is still sliding down the runway
    0:20 plane has come to a stop
    0:20-6:20 flight attendants giving instructions, assessing exit doors and situation.
    6:20 passenger evacuation begins (6 mins after plane came to a stop)
    7:35 passenger evacuation appears to be completed (1m15s evacuation. 7m15s after plane came to a stop.)

    So the passenger evacuation itself really did only take under 90 seconds.

    By deduction that the last person left the plane at 6:01pm local time (18 mins later), the crew spent another 10 minutes checking out the cabin before evacuating themselves.
    cool, calm and collected. +

    My initial impression was a more compressed and imminently risky run.

    image of A350 front with bashed in radar dome but no damage further up:

    Does that hint at the A350 nose still being elevated and intersetting with the t-tail mostly?
    the A350 fuselage straddling/overrunning the Dash8 fuselage?

  20. “Boeing asked the FAA to exempt its 737 MAX 7 from safety regulations that would apply to an engine anti-ice system defect with potentially catastrophic consequences

    Without the exemption, the jet cannot be certified.

    “Little noticed, days before the holiday break, Boeing petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption from key safety standards for the 737 MAX 7 — the still-uncertified smallest member of its newest jet family.”

    Last year, we were told:
    “The long-awaited 737-7 certification is *on track* …

  21. China seeks European approval of C919, wants its home-grown jet to compete with Boeing and Airbus abroad
    Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will seek to work with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to allow its ‘domestic civil aircraft to go abroad’
    The home-grown C919 narrowbody passenger jet made its maiden commercial flight in May, but has only been certified by China’s regulator

        • Pedro.
          The Y12 was type certed by the FAA as it met the cert requirements in place at the time. There is no bilateral agreement between the Chinese regulators and either EASA or FAA at this time. The path to getting an FAA or EASA CofA by following the us/euro rules is open to everyone. The agreement for bilateral recognition of certification requirements is between easa and the faa. This was strained by the max’s problems, but both agencys still recognise each others work as functionally equivalent. The chinese are negotiating for that recognition and do not have it yet….. Your pointing to the Y12 as a product of the nonexistant bilateral agreement is not correct……. OBTW, I like the Y12, its a solid performer a tad heavy, but a good value…..

        • Pedro,

          Just from a common sense perspective:

          Transport Canada, EASA & FAA all have a cert agreement in place. When Transport Canada signed off on the C-Series/A220, the FAA & EASA accepted the process….AFAIK. No negotiations needed.

          Which is why the whole Max fiasco was such a shock to the system. The FAA should have been first in line to ground the thing, as they were the one’s who signed off on it in the first place – not the last.

          Then when they had individual agencies doing their own work to get it back into service, was kind of odd. It showed how far the trust in the system had fallen, IMO.

          That’s probably one of the reasons why the whole 777X cert is taking so long as the FAA needs to rebuild trust amongst it’s partners and go through everything with a fine tooth comb. And the Max 7. And the Max 10.

          The FAA trusted BA and got burned. Now the FAA has to go above and beyond to regain trust with it’s contemporaries.

          Just my 2 cents

      • Apparently they’ve grounded the entire Max 9 fleet at Alaska



        Someone in the comments wrote that this was a ‘plug’ where a door for a dense configuration aircraft would have been. I guess we’ll find out


        Side note:

        To my friend(s) in the PNW, who would fly down to California on occasion;

        Fly Delta for a bit when you go and maybe book on that 2×3 seater until things are worked out. Even the 2×2 seater is probably a good choice…

  22. Usque tandem Boeing abutere patientia nostram- to plagiarize Cicero.
    Seriously, what additional evidence is needed to demonstrate that the quality of B aircraft is now marginal at best? The quality control process is NOT in control and the result is there for all to see.
    This is a brand new frame with less than 150 commercial flights and the cabin blows out at 16000 feet.
    Perhaps Alaska will reactivate their AB 320 now?

  23. Another boring year for Boeing
    Sorry Ryanair,but I’m booking on easy jet for a bit.If it was just the one thing,or maybe a couple of things……

  24. “A passenger plane lost a section of its fuselage in mid-air forcing it to make an emergency landing in the US state of Oregon.

    The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 turned back minutes into its flight to California after an outer section, including a window, fell off on Friday.
    There were 177 passengers and crew on board and it landed safely in Portland.
    The airline said it would temporarily ground all 65 of its 737 Max 9 aircraft to conduct inspections.”

    remember yesterday Seattle times article “Boeing wants FAA to exempt MAX 7 from safety rules to get it in the air”

    • Apparently it happened on the way up at 16,000ft. Imagine if they were at 35,000ft and cruising, with the seatbelt sign switched off, people moving around the cabin – when that thing blows.

      This is bad for aviation. First the Japan thing (yes, pilot error but still a serious accident with deaths that could have been much, much worse) and now this (which also could have resulted in a catastrophic event).

      This is the 3rd Max event in it’s short service life. Jinxed?

  25. Hi Frank.
    India just grounded the MAX pending a 1 time inspection of the door that departed the AS Max. And yeah, I was heading down south Monday on AS and dont have a flight status update yet. I should have booked the Delta A220 and Mooned the world again. Give Pablo a hug and a chewy for me…. More later.

    • Be safe, my man.

      So from your engineering perspective, what’s involved with an inspection like that? Interior panel & insulation needs to come out. Some seats removed. Give the engineers a clear view of the thing?

      While this is the first incident of this happening on a Max, does everyone wait for the NTSB to report on it? Determine what went wrong and then check for it?

      Pablo has taken over Joey’s bad habit of demanding oatmeal in his food. Good thing Costco sells those large quantity Quaker Oats boxes. At least it keeps me regular… Make sure you give Joey his fill, before heading down south.

  26. A point to ponder;

    After a discussion with our resident engineer, the conversation turned to the exit door, itself.

    It was my understanding that all pax doors were ‘plug’ doors, opening inward and using pressurization to keep them in place (i.e. to keep some wacko from trying to open them in flight).


    If this door was indeed a plug type door (not a door that has been plugged) , how the heck could it be blown out? Unless the way it work is that when it does operate as a functioning door for pax, it is a plug door, but when it is not used (for weight purposes as Mentour pointed out) it’s an outward opening mechanism, which is not available to pax.

    Anyone who sits in exit row gets the speech about opening the hatch inwards, then throwing it out the window, in an emergency. It’s also in the safety cards.

    I really hate to think that there are doors on an aircraft that could be opened outwards.

    Does anyone have any insight into this? The door is question looks like it is aft of the wing and not used for loading pax. Is it a plug door?

    • Hello Frank P.,

      Re: “If this door was indeed a plug type door (not a door that has been plugged) , how the heck could it be blown out?”

      All 737-9 fuselages have fuselage openings between the rear doors and overwing emergency exits where either a emergency exit assembly or a metal panel covering the opening can be installed. There was no door at this location on the Alaska 737-9 involved in this incident, but instead a metal panel covering the fuselage opening where a door assembly could have been installed. The post incident pictures of the opening that are widely available online, clearly show that the entire assembly covering the fuselage opening where a door assembly could have been attached, but was not attached, departed the aircraft. They also seem to suggest that the flanges and bolt holes on which the metal panel covering the fuselage opening should have been attached are intact. It would thus seem that the metal panel (once again, there was no door at his location on this aircraft) was somehow not properly attached to its mounting holes.

      • “The post incident pictures of the opening that are widely available online, clearly show that the entire assembly covering the fuselage opening where a door assembly could have been attached, but was not attached”

        Not properly attached =/= not attached

      • Re: in my post above: “They also seem to suggest that the flanges and bolt holes on which the metal panel covering the fuselage opening should have been attached are intact.”

        After viewing the video at the link below I realized that the plug door configuration on the 737-9 was a little different than I had thought. What I thought were the flanges to which the panel that covers the opening where a door could be installed was bolted, are actually some of the 12 metal “stop pads” that are spread around the door opening. Twelve corresponding metal ears on the plug panel (or door when it is installed) line up against and inside these pads when the panel (or door) is properly installed or closed, and bear the pressurization loads (i.e. the pressurization forces push the ears on the panel or door against the stop pads on the cover/door frame. To open the panel for maintenance or the door for escape, the panel or door has to be slid upward so that the ears are no longer lined up with the stop pads and then the cover panel or door can be pushed outward (they are hinged at the bottom and fold downward). The four bolts that keep the door opening cover closed do so by blocking the panel from moving upward to where the ears could clear the stop pads, and do not bear any pressurization or flight loads, they only block the opening cover from being slid upward. I suspect that any one of these bolts, if properly installed, should be strong enough to keep the opening cover from being slid upward to the position where it could be pushed outward.


        • So the door/plug is held down by gravity
          nothing indicates that it is not properly retained?

          compare to the effort taken to expose closed but not locked engine covers.

  27. “The FAA said Saturday is it temporarily grounding certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory until they are inspected. The FAA says this will affect about 171 planes worldwide.

    “The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement.”

    wonder how they determine the lot of 171 planes?

  28. Did anyone see that photo CNBC had up of the blown-out 737-9 door? Wow.


  29. Oh no….

    So this is an excellent video put out on the Max 9 mid cabin doors:


    Sent to me by Scott C. Thanks to him.


    Now…down in the comments, I ran into this:

    Alaska 1282 N704AL 24:01 door plug attached by 4 bolts. Expecting Spirit AeroSystems to be in the news for a bit

    When they leave Spirit, the cabin doors are installed but the over wing emergency exit doors aren’t. They’re just temporarily covered and sealed (taped). I can’t remember seeing a 9 or any with a mid- cabin exit, but I will be paying particular attention in the future. There could be a difference the condition of supply between units that get the active door and the ones with a plug. But I don’t think that Spirit handles emergency doors at all on 737s.

    Another reply:
    I just googled Spirit Aerosystems, and found a picture of a train transporting the MAX 9 fuselages. Indeed the overwing exit doors are covered, but the mid cabin door is in place and seems like its fitted..


    It looks like there are 4 bolts that are installed to secure the door plug. The pictures of the ripped off door shown no damage to the side.

    Did someone not install the bolts?

      • You didn’t watch the video, did you? It shows.

        Right there, on the annunciator panel that the author of the video shows, are Left Mid Exit and Right Mid Exit.

        (I think the guy’s a Capt, as well)

        Nothing about ‘near rear’…lol

        Do try to watch the relevant videos and keep up.

        Failing that – why don’t you call up engineering and say:

        “Hey – this is Duke over in PR. I don’t like that you call it mid-cabin. Please change it to ‘Near-Rear’. It has a nicer ring to it…”

        • “Emirates stated that at no time during the flight did one of the upper deck doors open and nor was there any loss in cabin pressurisation at any time during the flight. “This is currently under investigation in conjunction with Airbus. Emirates have now fixed the problem.”

          Wow – look; Airbus have designed an aircraft that can lose a door/door plug in flight at 27,000ft and not lose cabin pressure.

          Shows how desperate he is to deflect to anything Airbus

          • see my post further up on slanted reporting.

            headline was “Airbus caught fire on landing”
            collision was only ever mentioned much further down.

            IMU there are a lot of busybodies around “forming” perceptions.

          • @Frank P

            Oh media like FG and AW was totally unfair not to mention this major engineering fate of Airbus, but report every major and minor incidents about the MAX.

          • “major engineering fate of Airbus”

            was a damaged seal. no door was ever “blown out”, open or what not.

            the result was a slow leak which afair crew tried to ameliorate by placing wet towels onto the leaky place.

          • My post was a bit tongue in cheek.
            The Brit’s “National Enquirer” report is good for a laugh.

    • Re: “When they leave Spirit, the cabin doors are installed but the over wing emergency exit doors aren’t. They’re just temporarily covered and sealed (taped). I can’t remember seeing a 9 or any with a mid- cabin exit, but I will be paying particular attention in the future.”

      According to the Reuters article at the link below, 737-9 fuselages are shipped form Spirit to Boeing with temporarily installed covers for the fuselage openings between the rear doors and overwing exits. These covers are then removed and re-installed or replaced in their final configuration by Boeing.

      “As part of the production process, Spirit builds fuselages for 737s and sends them by train with the special door assembly “semi-rigged,” one of the people said.

      “They are fitted but not completed,” the person said.

      At its Renton, Washington, plant, Boeing typically removes the pop-out, or non-functioning, door and uses the gap to load interiors. Then, the part is put back and the installation in completed. Finally, the hull is pressurized to 150% to make sure everything is working correctly, the person said.

      The process means that finding out where any flaw was introduced during assembly may not be clear-cut, said the sources, who asked not to be named as details of the probe are confidential.

      Door plugs have been used to adapt aircraft and offer flexible layouts across the industry for years.

      The investigation will include structural experts to see whether design or manufacturing played a role in the accident.

      “The assumption is that it was installed or rigged incorrectly,” one of the sources said.”


      • Good article. A couple of questions:

        1) Wired nuts?

        2) Second set of eyes?

        This and the loose bolts in the tail makes me wonder if things have really changed.

    • It is the ‘near rear’, behind the wing. The actual full rear doors are further back again and are not normal not emergency doors
      The ‘mid fuselage’ door pair over wing on this plane are still in use emergency doors arent ‘plugged’ shut to be unusable ( lower density layouts only)

      • Incorrect. I will direct you to the 737 Annunciator panel, picture posted by the author of the video, a 737 Capt. From nose to tail:

        Fwd Entry/Fwd Service/Fwd Cargo
        Equip/Left Fwd Overwing/Right Fwd Overwing/Aft Cargo
        Left Mid Exit/Left Aft Overwing/Right Aft Overwing/Right Mid Exit
        Aft Entry/Aft Service

        The Fwd Cargo, Equip, Aft Cargo, Left & Right mid are set slightly lower, than the grouping of 8.

        When the doors are plugged and not in use, an InOp placard is placed over it.

        There is no rear. No one has referred to it as the ‘rear’, but you. Stop drawing the extended hurricane path onto the map with a sharpie.

      • Ultimately BA has the responsibility to inspect work of SPR was done properly.

        “The fuselage for the accident Max 9 was loaded into Boeing’s systems integration tooling in Renton at the beginning of September, according to a person familiar with N704AL’s manufacturing, just as its factory was wrestling with the fallout from invasive inspections and rework on smaller 737 Max 8s. […]

        The exit door goes through at least two rounds of quality assurance checks. One after the installation of the deactivated exit door on the fuselage in Wichita at Spirit. And again in Renton with Boeing to verify the door is flush, and the internal stop pins and hinges are correct. Once complete, Boeing closes out the area with sidewall and systems installation.


        • Ivory Coast made a good point about how the doors may be removed by BA personnel while on the FAL for access, ventilation, tools…

          • More like speculation than anything concrete.

            ‘ Experts can think of no reason why the plug on the Alaska jet would have been damaged or altered since the airline received the aircraft two months ago.

            “Fundamentally, we go back to the production challenges that Boeing has been faced with, from a supplier standpoint,” says Merluzeau. “Also the workforce problems.” Goglia suspects the Alaska’s jets failed plug might have suffered from a manufacturing problem, or perhaps been installed improperly.

            Another possibility, he says: Boeing’s workers, at some point during final assembly, opened the plug – perhaps for fresh air or to bring materials into the cabin – and then failed to properly close it.

  30. I am bit surprise we have not had an article in the matter by Scott. We should have one Monday. Would be interested by his/Leeham views.

    Sadly, one can read above again the types of personal attacks that lead Leeham to limit the number of open articles where we could learn from real experts commenting. Or the BA or AB haters that jumped on every tidbits to harass anyone. Or atavistic nationalism attacks. Sigh.

    Am glad this accident happened low altitude. At cruise, yes it would not have been pretty. The airframe would have survived but probably with passenger loss. BA may need to ‘nationalize’ (ie reinsource Spirit). Yet, Spirit also supplies AB with major components.

    Interesting equation.

    • Hello Ivorycoast,

      Re:”Sadly, one can read above again the types of personal attacks that lead Leeham to limit the number of open articles where we could learn from real experts commenting. Or the BA or AB haters that jumped on every tidbits to harass anyone. Or atavistic nationalism attacks. Sigh.”

      I agree 100%. The comments were once often interesting and informative, sometimes from people with inside knowledge of the issue at hand, but have now sadly become a cesspool of juvenile and repetitive flame wars, that I often don’t bother to read, from people who have obviously never had their hands on the controls of an aircraft (Microsoft flight simulator doesn’t count) and have never crawled into an aircraft maintenance bay (one of the grand examples a while back was posts complaining about the “empty space” under the floor of certain fuselage cross sections).

      • Robert and Cote D’Ivoire

        It’s not just here. We have entered a new era in which facts, evidence and the rule of law can be ignored and explained away with ‘alternative’ facts, whataboutisms, jingoistic arguments and outright lies.

        Given the technical nature of this website, and the industry it involves – I believe it is incumbent upon those who take the time to research the relevant facts and post them here, to defend their position in the strongest terms possible against commenters who have shown a propensity to ignore evidence.

        After all, someone who happens by the site and reads some of the clearly incorrect comments, might get the idea that they are true.

        Those who show a habitual nature of posting falsehoods open themselves up to ridicule and snark.

        If you feel it taxing, to have to sift through the comments from those who add nothing to the discussion – imagine having watched a 26 minute video detailing the technical nature of the cockpit workings of the mid-cabin door, learning how it opens and deploys – all from a Captain who runs a channel called:

        The Boeing 737 Technical Channel


        Then posting the findings found therein – only to be told that it’s not called one thing, but this other thing I wish it to be.

        Snark called for? Could be. You find it a little harsh? Could be, as well.

        I’m still waiting for the poster in question to reference his technical source. Funny thing is – they never seem to. But we did get a wonderful reference to an Emirates A380 flight and one British pax who thought a door had blown out in 2013, from a ‘National Enquirer’ type news source.

      • Sounds a bit elitist There are many from the aircraft industry that provides insight to the discussion that don’t “fly” but build commercial aircraft and/or supply research One needs to be open minded to learn

      • Hi AP_Robert, indeed… and yours were some of the best informative comments that I miss indeed very much.

        Am interesting theory, marked as just speculation, but still interesting written on Flight Global, was that sometimes such emergency concealed doors are removed late in the assembly process by BA workers (read: after delivery by Spirit) for a few reasons: easier to bring some parts in the fuselage, or factory too hot and workers wanting some air, etc.

        Speculation is the door may not have been properly resealed by them.

        Of course, could still have been a direct Spirit assembly issue.

        • That’s a very good point – about the removed door for access while on the BA FAL.

          There has to be a doc trail for this, no? A procedure that details how to take it off, in the first place, than another on how to re-install it?

          Pure speculation here, but would it also not require an inspector to sign off on it? Someone’s name has to be on it, no?


          While it’s still early doors in the investigation and we don’t know if it’s a case of missing bolts, I ask the question:

          Like the recent loose bolts in the tail section and given what might happen if they fail/fall out, in both cases; shouldn’t they have cotter pins/be wired?

  31. Wow 2024 …

    “Air Tindi DHC-6 Twin Otter (ID unknown as of yet) made an off-airport landing about 16 km southeast of Diavik Diamond Mine, NWT, Canada leaving 8 of the 10 people on board injured in harsh weather conditions. A rescue operation is underway.

    “The first image emerged from the accident site. The DHC-6 Twin Otter (C-GMAS) remains intact when it came to rest on icy, uploping terrain. The ground collision took place in almost zero visibility and whiteout conditions.


  32. I wonder how much transparency there will be about the (renewed) 737-9 inspection findings.

    • I think the FAA got burned enough by BA with the Max fiasco and have the need to restore confidence in them with other regulatory agencies around the world – that they’re not going to let such a visible event slip through the cracks.

      I would also postulate that the engine ice heater exemption that BA is looking for on the Max 7, is not going to happen right away. They still may get it, but the mid-cabin door blow out will be front and center now. The cause needs to be found, corrective action needs to be taken and a little time needs to pass to let things cool down.

    • “One of the consequences of the Alaska Air incident may be a slower increase to the 737 manufacturing pace than Boeing had planned for the year. The planemaker faces immense pressure to return its factories to 2019 rates at a time when customers are clamoring for the latest aircraft, and investors are expecting cash generation to surge.

      Prior to the incident, analysts had predicted that Boeing would deliver about 580 of their 737-series jetliners this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s a considerable jump from the 375 to 400 deliveries that the company targeted for 2023. A delivery surge would also propel Boeing to its first annual profit since Calhoun took over as CEO.

    • Good article- TFTL. I see the focus is still deliveries rather than safety.

      “Hands-off management yadda-yadda..” Calhoun’s part of the problem.

  33. The grounding only applies to newer aircraft,ie the ones that only Boeing has inspected.Why wouldn’t you inspect all door plugs like this one?,Logicaly, the authorities are implying that they trust all of the maintenance contractors involved and only Boeing could f*** this up.

  34. Bob found something in his backyard.

    “The door plug that blew off of an Alaska Airlines flight Friday shortly after takeoff has been found, a top federal official said Sunday night.

    The door plug was found in the backyard of a Portland schoolteacher identified only as “Bob,” National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said around 9 p.m., after an hour-long news conference.

    “Thank you, Bob,” Homendy said, adding that she was “very relieved.”


  35. I’m no expert, shouldn’t Alaska be taking more heat for this?”Pressurisation problems “ would seem to me to be a source of serious concern and something that isn’t going to get any better

    • How dangerous speculation is!Latest theory on pprune (and very plausible)is that Alaska removed the door to assist in fitting wi fi.Huge apologies to Boeing if this turns out to be true,fortunately no one listens to me anyway!

      • That’s right… We shouldn’t rush to judgment till all the facts are in. I did hear that the black boxes would not help since everything would cycle and data would only be on only two minutes of tape…

    • Nice recovery, I heard it fell 20% at one time.

      What if: SPR went belly up?? This mess will sit on the lap of BA.

  36. No-one has mentioned (unless I’ve missed it) that Spirit and Boeing are not the only ones who could have removed and then replaced this panel improperly – either AS or their contractors have installed WiFi in the plane post delivery and would have been installing wiring in this area so may have had reason to remove the plug in the course of doing that. It’ll be another thing to be investigated

  37. From AP:
    Pressurization warning light of the Alaska airline 737 MAX 9 came on during three previous flights: on Dec. 7, Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 — the day before the door plug broke off.

  38. Someone mentioned in a Youtube comment this:

    Boeing’s been cutting QA. They (the executives) called it the, “Verification Optimization Program.”

    and while BA has been hiring back inspectors, if it is found out that it was a lack of bolts installed by them and that it was signed off by a second set of eyes, they would probably face increased scrutiny.


    ‘When Boeing announced its Verification Optimization plan, it cut thousands of inspections from their production process. District 751 objected and, as a result of effects bargaining, IAM V.O. Representatives were appointed to these new full-time positions.’


    Side note:

    Pure speculation and connecting some dots here, but the aircraft in question was delivered in Nov 2023, right in the middle of the Q4 rush to get as many planes into the hands of airlines before Y/E.

    The question (if BA is where the buck stops on this issue) to ask then – is BA slipping back into it’s old habits?

  39. From the FlightRadar24 blog at the link below.

    “Alaska Airlines and United Airlines continued to operate some 737-9 MAX flights the day following the accident due to the aircraft having recently undergone heavy maintenance and inspection. Late in the day on 6 January, however, both airlines grounded their entire 737-9 fleets, saying they are awaiting guidance on the inspections required by the FAA’s EAD.”

    “8 January — FAA approves inspection method

    The FAA now says it has “approved a method to comply with the FAA’s Boeing 737-9 emergency airworthiness directive, and it has been provided to the affected operators.”

    Affected 737-9s will stay grounded until “operators complete enhanced inspections which include both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners.” Any deficiencies must be corrected before an aircraft can return to service.”


    • At 11:28 AM US Mountain Time on 1-8-24 FlightAware shows 20 MAX 9’s airborne, operated by the following carriers.

      Copa Airlines: 11 aircraft (166 or 174 seats, so might have plugs instead of mid-cabin exits, 3 enroute to US Airports – 2 to Los Angeles and 1 to Miami)

      Corendon Dutch Airlines: 1 flight (213 seats, so must have mid-cabin exits instead of plugs, Hurghada to Amsterdam)

      Icelandair: 4 flights (178 seats, so could have plugs instead of mid-cabin exits, 3 enroute to US airports – JFK, Newark, and Washington Dulles)

      Turkish Airlines: 3 aircraft (169 seats, so could have plugs instead of mid cabin exits)

      SCAT Airlines: 1 flight (Shymkent to Almaty, 213 seats, so must have exits instead of mid-cabin plugs)

      The seating limit for mid-cabin plugs instead of exits is 189.

      None of these flights departed from a US airport.

  40. MAx 9 Plug/Mid-Exit door configuration for the carriers who had MAX 9’s airborne at 11:28 US MT according to Flightradar24 at the link below.

    Copa: 21 with plugs, 8 with exits.

    Corendon Dutch: All have exits

    Icelandair: All have exits

    SCAT: All have exits

    Turkish: All have plugs


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