Alaska Airlines grounding: NTSB releases image showing interior of Alaska Airlines plane where fuselage plug area exploded

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Federal investigators released their first image from inside the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane that lost a power outlet mid-flight, showing a headrest ripped off a nearby seat and oxygen masks still hanging from the plane’s ceiling.

The photo was released as investigators continue searching for the missing piece of the Alaska Airlines plane fuselage that exploded after it took off from Portland, leading to the grounding of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft nationwide and a series of flight cancellations.

The image shows National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge John Lovell inspecting part of the fuselage plug area and a missing headrest on a seat near the refrigerator-sized hole in the plane.

Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of ​​Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX.

No passengers during Friday’s flight were seated directly next to the section of the plane that exploded, NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said Saturday.

“It’s fortunate that no one died and there were no more serious injuries,” Homendy told CNN after touring the plane. Investigators were preparing to interview the flight crew, she said.

Homendy asked the public for help in locating the “plug door” and other components of the aircraft that fell during the flight.

“We believe, by looking at the radar data, that the gate is around Barnes Road near I-217 in the Cedar Hills neighborhood. If you find that, contact your local police,” Homendy said.

Cedar Hills is in Washington County, just over 7 miles west of Portland.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday in X Agents are aware of the information from the NTSB and “of the possibility that the door to @AlaskaAir Flight 1282 may have fallen in our area. At this time, we have not been asked to coordinate any specific searches and have not received any calls from the public regarding possible debris found.”

Locating the missing piece will provide key clues as to why it became separated from the plane, Homendy said.

“If it’s in someone’s backyard, I’d like to see it,” he added.

The refrigerator-sized hole that suddenly opened in the plane carrying 177 people from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, sent on Friday panic throughout the plane As the cabin depressurized, oxygen masks lowered and passengers screamed and texted goodbye. The plane landed safely and no serious injuries were reported, authorities said.

The ordeal resulted in the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to temporarily grounded certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft until they are carefully inspected. Boeing has faced a chain of setbacks in recent years, notably a grounding in dozens of countries in 2019 following two tragic accidents.

Alaska Airlines said late Saturday that emergency inspections of its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft “will take longer,” warning that flight disruptions will likely continue.

The airline said it had canceled 160 flights, affecting about 23,000 travelers, as of Saturday afternoon, and there could be more cancellations on Sunday.

“We are identifying the necessary cancellations for tomorrow and expect the disruption to last at least until mid-week,” the airline said in the statement.

united airlines It also said it will suspend services on all of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft and “will work with the FAA to clarify the inspection process and requirements for returning all MAX 9 aircraft to service.” United said it has 79 planes in its fleet.

Meanwhile, investigators are beginning to dig into the Alaska plane’s maintenance records, among other components, as they investigate the mishap.

On Tuesday, Boeing plans to hold an all-employee meeting at its 737 Max factory in Renton, Washington, “focused on safety” and the company’s response to the crash, Boeing Chairman and CEO David Calhoun said. in an email to the entire company.

“It is critical for us to work transparently with our customers and regulators to understand and address the causes of the event and ensure it does not happen again,” Calhoun said in the email.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 had reached 16,000 feet after taking off from Portland when chaos unfolded. The plane was in the air for only about 20 minutes, according to the flight tracking site. Flight reported.

With a boom, the fuselage plug, which from the inside of the plane looks like the typical interior of a commercial airliner, flew out of the plane, sucking elements out of the plane, according to the video and passenger accounts.

Some planes have an intentional opening that can be covered with a plug or emergency door, depending on the seating configuration requested by the airline.

Miraculously, there was no one sitting in 26A and 26B, the two seats on the plane right next to the outlet door that exploded, Homendy said Saturday night. Alaska Airlines confirmed that no passengers were assigned to those seats.

The force of the sudden depressurization of the passenger cabin ripped off the headrests and seat cushions, Homendy told CNN.

The seat backrest of 26A is completely gone, as are the headrests of seats 25A and 26A, Homendy said. There were also clothes scattered area.

The seat assemblies are twisted, Homendy said, the oxygen masks are hanging off and there is a piece of clothing trapped in the hole by the missing door plug that became separated from the plane.

“The video looks very calm, but I’m sure it was completely chaotic and very loud,” Homendy said.

What also prevented a more disastrous outcome was that it occurred before the plane reached cruising altitude, when passengers normally begin to unbuckle and walk, Homendy said.

Still, the incident spread panic on the plane.

Passenger Nick Hoch, 33, described hearing a “boom” before the plane “shake.” “Oxygen masks were dropped from above and we put them on immediately, but it was a disorienting experience,” Hoch told CNN on Saturday.

Hoch said he was sitting on the left side of the plane, a few rows in front of where the panel exploded and “a fog or cloud passed by me and hit me in the face.”

“I’ve had people much closer to me that I’ve talked to who have lost their AirPods from their ears,” he said.

Several passengers aboard the plane required medical attention due to injuries, and all “have been medically cleared,” Alaska Airlines said in the Saturday evening statement.

“I imagine this was a pretty scary event,” Homendy said. “We don’t often talk about psychological damage, but I’m sure that happened here.”

Alaska Airlines said it was working with Boeing to understand what happened on Flight 1282..

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 involved in Friday’s incident has been in service for about three months and has flown about 150 times since October 2023, according to records from FlightAware and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Alaska Airlines said it inspected 18 of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft in its fleet Saturday and returned them to service, but hours later, it changed course and said those planes would be retired “until details about possible additional maintenance work are confirmed with the FAA.”

Stephanie King told CNN she was in an aisle seat in row 12 on the flight home to California when she heard a loud roar of wind.

“I just knew something bad had happened,” he told CNN by phone on Saturday.

King said the flight attendants made announcements, but because the plane was open, there was too much noise for her to hear much of what was said.

Several passengers closest to the hole in the plane were frantic and moved to empty seats away from the incident, King told CNN.

“One of the ladies was screaming and crying. She was inconsolable. She kept saying: ‘My son! My son! They ripped his shirt off!’” King said. “It was absolutely surreal.”

Fearing for his safety, King pulled out his phone to record videos and compose final text messages to his loved ones.

“I wrote some text messages to my boyfriend and my mom to tell them that something was happening, that I was scared and that I love them,” she said.

According to Alaska Airlines, in the days leading up to the incident, pilots had filed several reports of warning lights indicating a loss of cabin pressure and, as a result, the plane was restricted to long-haul flights over water, The Seattle Times. reported.

Homendy told CNN he is aware there were pressurization problems on the plane before the incident, and investigators will ask what Alaska Airlines mechanics did to rectify them. He said investigators also plan to review maintenance records aboard the aircraft. Alaska Airlines has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

After the FAA ordered temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft in light of the Alaska Airlines incident, Boeing said the company supported the FAA’s decision.

“Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers,” Boeing said in a statement.

“We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 aircraft with the same configuration as the affected aircraft.”

The latest service suspension comes after a series of setbacks for Boeing.

Last monthBoeing asked airlines to inspect all of its 737 MAX aircraft for a possible loose bolt in the rudder system after an airline discovered a potential problem with a key part on two planes.

Boeing’s engineering and quality problems have posed great challenges to the company. The accidents of two of the 737-8 MAX planes that killed 346 people on board flights caused a paralyzing injury 20 month grounding of the airplane.

The Max returned to the air carrying passengers in most markets around the world starting in end of December 2020. But it has encountered other problems, including in April when Boeing said it had discovered a manufacturing problem with some 737 MAX airplanes after a provider used a “non-standard manufacturing process”during the installation of two accessories in the rear fuselage, although Boeing insisted that the problem did not constitute a safety risk.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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