The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Alaska Airlines Incident
—Capitalism Blew Out the Door

Jan 15, 2024

On Friday, January 5th, an Alaska Airlines-United flight was ten minutes into a flight from Portland to Southern California when a panel on the side of the plane—a so-called “door plug”—blew off at 16,000 feet. The cabin depressurized, bringing down the oxygen masks, blowing open the cockpit door, and raining passengers’ phones and clothes over the Portland suburbs. The pilots made an emergency landing ten minutes later. No one was badly hurt, though a teenager near the hole had his shirt sucked from him. Passengers and crew were all terrified. Because the plane was still climbing, passengers had their seatbelts on.

The plane was a Boeing 737 Max 9—the same series of planes that crashed five years ago, killing almost 350 passengers. In those crashes, Boeing was found to have rushed its design and skimped on safety to save on costs and time—all to pad its shareholders’ bottom line.

Alaska Air and United have both found “bolts that needed additional tightening” on the door plugs once they started investigating their Max 9 aircraft. The door plugs, along with the entire fuselage, or body, of the Max 9, are manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems.

Spirit AeroSystems was a division of Boeing that the company spun off and sold to a private equity group in 2005 as a way of boosting its stock price.

Why does a plane have “door plugs” on it in the first place? Airlines, Boeing’s customers, want to cram greater numbers of passengers into the plane. With the seats closer together, FAA regulations require more emergency exit doors. Boeing sought to save money by having one fuselage type and then delivering planes with “door plugs” to airlines like Alaska that didn’t need the extra doors. It seems that Spirit AeroSystems skimped on making sure some of these door plugs were securely attached.

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems cut costs and handed more money to their shareholders. By doing so, they put everyone who flies at deadly risk. So long as we have this rotten profit system, we are going to have rotten planes built by rotten corporations.