The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an immediate grounding order for certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes and mandated urgent inspections following an alarming incident on an Alaska Airlines flight. The plane experienced a mid-flight door blowout on Friday night during its trip from Portland to Ontario, California, leading to an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
Homendy, NTSB Board Chair, described the occurrence as an “accident, not an incident” during a news conference in Portland on Saturday. The aircraft’s mid-cabin door plug detached, causing rapid decompression. Fortunately, the seats adjacent to the affected door were unoccupied, averting more severe consequences.
Despite minor injuries reported, including some passengers needing medical attention, everyone has been medically cleared. Homendy highlighted the potentially terrifying nature of such events, acknowledging psychological impacts on passengers.
Alaska Airlines Update
The unexpected blowout forced the Alaska Airlines Flight No. 1282 to make an emergency landing, with 174 passengers and six crew members onboard. Witnesses described the sudden bang, oxygen masks dropping, and a chunk of the airplane missing, accompanied by loud winds.
Homendy noted the fortunate timing of the incident, occurring at around 16,000 feet instead of at cruising altitude, which could have led to a more catastrophic scenario with passengers moving around.
Remarkably, the blown-out door has yet to be located but is believed to be in the Cedar Mills suburb area of western Portland. Authorities urge anyone who finds the door to contact the NTSB.
In response to the incident, Alaska Airlines has grounded all 65 of its Boeing Max 9 aircraft. Despite completing inspections on 18 planes with no concerning findings, the FAA’s subsequent order led to the re-grounding of all 18 aircraft. This event has led to the cancellation of around 160 flights, affecting approximately 23,000 travelers.
United Airlines, another operator of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, expects about 60 flight cancellations due to the grounding. Both Alaska and United Airlines are offering alternatives and refunds to affected passengers.
Boeing, expressing deep regret over the incident’s impact, supports the FAA’s directive for immediate inspections and is collaborating closely with the NTSB’s investigation.
The priority remains passenger safety, with transportation officials affirming the FAA’s swift decision-making and reiterating their commitment to prioritize safety in aviation.