Oops! Boeing wiped the video of it replacing the door plug that fell off

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/14/oops-boeing-wiped-the-video-of-it-replacing-the-door-plug-that-fell-off.html




Haven’t we learned by now it’s usually both?


Yeah. But also…when you have a whole series of these, including a whistleblower killing himself right before he’s scheduled to talk to investigators again, it’s starting to seem like stupidity isn’t an adequate explanation.


Sus as it might be, a 30 day retention period for security video is not uncommon.

“Wiped” is a loaded term. Whatever, it’s not helping Boeing’s rep at all.


How long ago was the work performed, and how many days of security footage are typically stored before automatically being overwritten? I can believe that it’s possible that the video footage was not erased maliciously, or might have already been erased prior to this event. But there’s obviously no acceptable reason for them to not have paperwork showing who did the work.


Yard crews mowing grass on Boeing properties have more of a paper trail.


We need to stop underestimating just how much the two are intertwined, as @sqlrob noted. It doesn’t even actually matter the intent, when their actions are putting people directly in danger. :woman_shrugging:

point pointing GIF by Shalita Grant


The reporting uses very loaded terms like wiped, which are true but gives the impression it was intentional and not just standard video retention biting them in the ass. The work took place months ago most video systems don’t retain videos that long unless they’re specifically marked to be retained. It’s not standard or required to retain video of aircraft work.

I’ve read they have a lot of other issues with the documentation of the plug work but the missing video isn’t part of it.


oh no did the video “commit suicide”?


Yeah. As others have said, it’s just a 30 day cycle. The work was done in September, with no indication that there was anything wrong. It’s normal.

The missing paperwork is actually damming.


Angry Stacey Abrams GIF by OneGeorgia

And put together with the missing footage, that is doubly suspect.

But hey, we can trust corporations, right? They never do anything criminal or illegal, right? /s


and yet they chose that 30 day cycle, despite the fact storage is dirt cheap. ( cheaper than dirt really considering us property prices. )

if a company wanted an honest accounting of how things might go wrong, and they regularly put giant metal boxes full humans into the sky, they might have an inkling that a thirty day video log wasn’t nearly good enough

if however said company mainly wanted to cover their ass, without any real accounting of maintenance flaws, a month of recording is actually surprisingly generous. i’d have set it to 48 hours. ( which probably means it was a minimum settled on after negotiation with their lobby )

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If Boeing can’t provide the video not because of deliberate malice, but because their processes simply aren’t good enough allow them to investigate their own failures…well, I guess that changes the problem but it is still a pretty damn serious one.

“Required” is a funny word. It’s entirely to do with how much the government wants to force companies not to harm people, as can change from one administration to the next, and nothing to do with what actually stops them from harming people. But companies should still be liable when they do.


All I know is that when I wipe my bottom it’s definitely intentional.


That’s what I’m talking about there’s a big difference between going in and intentionally wiping the video AFTER the accident or even before the accident (in the case that someone discovered their mistake and moved to cover it up) and it just being the normal deletion of old video not intended to be retained.

In all likelihood between Boeing and the NTSB they’re still going to figure out what the process failure was and ways to cover that hole in the future. Every now and then issues slip through and even without the easy access of video showing what exactly was done the NTSB has so far had a good track record of still figuring out what went wrong. JA 123 failed 7 years after the mistake that caused the failure was made without any video evidence.

Maybe what comes out of this is body cam style recording of parts changes but even then I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect retention forever. Storage is cheap but not free and at the scale you’d need to always catch a mistake like this on video forever it gets huge.


In fairness; the interpretation shifts markedly based on whether or not the tape was still available at the time the door blew out.

Surveillance footage is the sort of record that even relatively tiny outfits that don’t do fancy retention policies usually age out automatically(if only because cheap DVRs have limited capacity and default to overwriting oldest-first rather than just running out of space and looking stupid); and it’s not the sort of thing that there’s necessarily a lot of incentive to hang on to for too long.

If it had already aged out before the flight that doesn’t tell us a whole lot. If it was still on disk and someone failed to slap a hold on it just about the moment that door hit the ground, though, then it’s full damning inference time.



From the letter

To date, we still do not know who performed the work to open, reinstall, and
close the door plug on the accident aircraft. Boeing has informed us that they are
unable to find the records documenting this work.

A verbal request was made by our investigators for security camera footage to help obtain this information; however, they were informed the footage was overwritten. The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward.

The work was performed in September 2023.

Records show the rivets were replaced per engineering requirements on Non-Conformance (NC) Order 145-8987-RSHK-1296-002NC completed on September 19, 2023, by Spirit AeroSystems personnel.

The door failed on Jan 5 2024, meaning that even if all records had been preserved at time of incident, any security footage would have been 108 days old at that point. That’s a three to four fold increase in costa associated with keeping surveillance footage across Boeing’s entire infrastructure. There’s a tradeoff between coverage of space and coverage of time. A thirty day retention period can mean that for those thirty days, the available footage is clearer, covers more of the facility, and is generally more useful,

And that’s as a backup. It’s not, “we know you have footage of this specific operation”-- it’s “maybe in the absence of proper records, we could try to identify the personnel from security footage.”

The real scandal is that the security footage is needed to identify the names of the maintenance crew.


It’s a rolling record that is retained for 30 days. The incident happened more than 30 days after the plane passed through that part of the Renton plant.

The missing paperwork on the other hand is an issue.

Thanks for looking that up. Seems like a pretty innocuous timeline for the tape; barring specific evidence that they normally keep it longer but mysteriously decided not to for totally unrelated reasons in this case(virtually any unexpected shortening of a retention policy is vastly more suspect than any retention policy itself is).

The round number for general commercial purposes is commonly 30; and that’s just nice round number appeal rather than a legal requirement or some sort of data-driven judgement regarding how long it takes to detect something you’ll need to pull the tapes to look back at. Even industries that are regulated because they are risks, are at risk, or both(casinos, banks, non-patient areas of hospitals) are commonly only held to 90 days.

As you say, though, the fact that there aren’t maintenance records or copious QMS spew that would make the tape mostly cosmetic is amply problematic.