Alaska Airlines grounded all of its Boeing 737-9 planes Friday night, hours after a window and a piece of fuselage from one of those planes exploded in midair and forced an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. No one was seriously injured.
The incident occurred shortly after takeoff and the gaping hole caused the cabin to depressurize. Flight data showed that the plane climbed to 16,000 feet (4,876 meters) before returning to Portland International Airport. The airline said the plane landed safely with 174 passengers and six crew members.
“Following tonight’s incident on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary measure of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft.” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement. “My heart goes out to those who were on this flight. I am so sorry for what they experienced.”
Each of the planes will return to service after full maintenance and safety inspections, which Minicucci said the airline anticipated completing within days.
“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred tonight and will share updates as more information becomes available,” he said.
The airline did not provide immediate information on injuries. However, KPTV reported According to the Port of Portland, the fire department responded and treated minor injuries at the scene. One person was taken for further treatment but was not seriously injured.
The plane was diverted about six minutes after takeoff at 5:07 p.m., according to flight tracking data from the FlightAware website. The pilot told air traffic controllers in Portland that the plane had an emergency, was depressurized and needed to return to the airport, according to a recording made by the website. LiveATC.net.
a passenger sent KATU-TV A photo showing the hole in the side of the plane next to the passenger seats. Video shared with the station showed people wearing oxygen masks and passengers applauding as the plane landed.
Passenger Evan Smith was on the flight and described the moment the explosion occurred.
“You heard a loud bang in the left rear. There was a whistle and all the oxygen masks were instantly deployed and everyone put them on,” he told KATU.
Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window was broken. The boy’s shirt was sucked off the plane, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration said they will investigate the incident.
The plane in question left the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to reports FAA records online. The plane had made 145 flights since entering commercial service on Nov. 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the third of the day.
Boeing said it was aware of the incident, was working to gather more information and was ready to support the investigation.
The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle airliner frequently used on domestic flights in the United States. The aircraft entered service in May 2017.
Two Max 8 planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people and leading to nearly two years of death. world grounding of all Max 8 and Max 9 planes. The planes returned to service only after Boeing made changes to an automated flight control system implicated in the crashes.
Last year, the FAA told pilots that limit use of an anti-icing system on the Max in dry conditions due to concerns that the inlets around the engines could overheat and rupture, possibly hitting the plane.
Peak deliveries have been interrupted at times to correct manufacturing defects. The company told airlines in December to inspect planes for possible loose bolt in the rudder control system.
Associated Press writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.