Investigator says she asked Boeing’s CEO who handled panel that blew off a jet. He couldn’t help her

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The nation’s chief accident investigator said Wednesday that her agency still doesn’t know who worked on the panel that blew off a jetliner in January and that Boeing’s CEO told her that he couldn’t provide the information because the company has no records about the job.

“The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward,” National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy wrote in a letter to a Senate committee that is looking into the Jan. 5 accident on a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines.

Boeing issued a brief statement vowing, as it has many times, to support the investigation.

Homendy told senators last week that the NTSB asked Boeing for security-camera footage that might help identify who worked on the panel in September, but was told the video was overwritten after 30 days — months before the blowout.

Boeing said Wednesday that it’s standard company practice to erase video after 30 days.

Homendy’s latest letter to the Senate Commerce Committee was a follow-up to her appearance before the panel last week. Shortly after her testimony ended, Boeing provided names of 25 employees who work on doors at the company’s 737 factory near Seattle.

She said, however, the company still hasn’t said which of the workers removed the panel, which plugs a hole left when extra emergency doors are not required on a plane. She said she even called Boeing CEO David Calhoun.

“He stated he was unable to provide that information and maintained that Boeing has no records of the work being performed,” Homendy wrote. Boeing did not comment on the phone call.

There is a drawback to NTSB’s focus on identifying specific workers, Homendy conceded. She worried that it could discourage people from talking about the matter with investigators, and so she told her staff to protect the identities of Boeing employees who come forward.