Senator JD Vance calls for hearing on Boeing 737 MAX

Republican Sen JD Vance said Congress must take steps to prevent another safety incident involving the Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane

Federal regulators have launched investigations, Boeing's stock price has nosedived, and now, a U.S. senator is calling for hearings after the latest 737 MAX 9 mishap.

Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, on Tuesday called for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to evaluate the safety of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft after the plug door blew off a jet in midair over the weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already grounded all 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes worldwide pending safety inspections.

"The FAA has assured me the 737 MAX is safe – last week’s near catastrophe calls that determination into question," Vance said in a statement Tuesday. "Pilots have filed safety complaints on these aircraft, many of which had just rolled off the production line, at a rate which is unbecoming of American aviation. My own family has flown on 737 MAX aircraft multiple times in the past year. Every American deserves a full explanation from Boeing and the FAA on what’s gone wrong and on the steps that are being taken to ensure another incident does not occur in the future."


Ohio Senator J.D. Vance

Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, participates in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing for Gigi Sohn, nominee to be a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images / Getty Images)

On Friday, a piece of fuselage tore off the left side of an Alaska Airlines-operated Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane, which forced an emergency landing. 

After Alaska Air Flight 1282 took off from Portland, Oregon, en route to Ontario, California, it was at about 16,000 feet of altitude and climbing when it experienced rapid depressurization after a panel that serves as a plug for an emergency exit door used on some variations of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 was torn off. The pilot immediately signaled the plane would have to land. It safely returned to Portland with all 171 passengers and six crew members aboard.


No serious injuries were reported in the incident, though Alaska reported that some passengers experienced minor injuries that required medical attention — all of whom were medically cleared after receiving treatment. Nobody was sitting in the seats adjacent to where the door plug blew out, according to the airline. Parts of the seat next to the fuselage, including the headrest, were missing.

Though no one was hurt, shares of Boeing and parts supplier Spirit Aerosystems plummeted Monday following the FAA's decision to ground certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets for further inspection. 


NTSB official analyzes Alaska Airlines blowout

Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX. (NTSB / Fox News)

While regulators probe the incident, Vance is calling for U.S. lawmakers to get involved as well.

"The Senate Commerce Committee should schedule a hearing to evaluate incidents involving the 737 MAX, Boeing’s engineering and safety standards, and the quality of oversight provided by the FAA and other relevant government agencies," Vance said. "I hope such a hearing will occur as soon as possible."

A news release from Vance's office noted several instances that have called the safety of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft into question.

In January 2023, pilots on an American Airlines-operated 737 MAX plane declared "PAN-PAN-PAN" shortly after takeoff, reported stabilizer trim control failure and landed back at the airport. One month later, pilots on a "brand new" 737 MAX plane operated by Southwest Airlines declared an emergency shortly after takeoff when the autopilot and trim systems failed, according to the release.


Alaska Boeing 737 MAX 9

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane sits at a gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 6, 2024 in Seattle. Alaska Airlines grounded its 737 MAX 9 planes after part of a fuselage blew off during a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ont (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Last March, Vance grilled the FAA's former Acting Administrator Billy Nolen about the safety of the aircraft at a Senate hearing.

"Is the 737 MAX actually safe? Have we done the necessary work here? Does your agency, do you feel confident that we’re actually in a position here where we can say the 737 MAX is doing what it needs to do, in light of the fact that we have some pretty recent safety complaints here?" Vance asked.

Nolen responded, "Yes sir, I can, I can say categorically that the 737 MAX airplane is safe."


In a statement issued after the incident Friday, Boeing said it agreed with the FAA's decision to ground its fleet of 737 MAX 9 planes.

"Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers," Boeing said. We agree with and fully support the FAA's decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane. In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB's investigation into the Jan. 5 accident. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers."

Fox Business' Eric Revell contributed to this report.