The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened a criminal investigation into the door blowout on an Alaska Airlines (AS, Seattle Tacoma International) B737-9 in early January, The Wall Street Journal has reported. The probe will be a part of a review of Boeing's compliance with a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement over the B737 MAX safety issues.

This comes on the heels of Boeing admitting that it was not able to find maintenance records for the affected door plug. Separately, the New York Times reported that the manufacturer failed 33 out of 89 safety audits conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since the January 2024 incident, with a total of 97 instances of alleged noncompliance. Key supplier Spirit AeroSystems, the sole manufacturer of B737 MAX fuselages and included in the FAA audit, failed on seven out of 13 tests.

While Boeing refused to comment on the DOJ investigation, the carrier said it was "normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation". Alaska Airlines added it was "fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation".

DOJ investigators have reportedly already interviewed some of the passengers and crew members.

As previously reported, the DOJ is now in a review period to verify whether the manufacturer complied with the 2021 agreement, in which Boeing committed to close cooperation with the administration and establishing a compliance programme in return for a deferral of a fraud prosecution related to the certification of the B737-8. The agreement expired on January 7, 2024, two days after the Alaska Airlines incident, but the DOJ has until July 2024 to verify compliance and finalise the deferral. The prosecution could restart if the administration finds that Boeing failed to comply with the 2021 deal.

Boeing admitted that it was not able to find any records for the work done on the emergency door plug that blew out from the Alaska Airlines' B737-9 after it was removed to repair another part during the assembly process.

"We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation," Executive Vice-President (Government Operations) Ziad Ojakli wrote to Senator Maria Cantwell in a letter reported by The Seattle Times newspaper. The manufacturer's working hypothesis is that the records of work made on the door plug at its Renton facility were never created in the first place.