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Alaska Airlines temporarily grounds all Boeing 737-9 aircraft after window blows open mid-air

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which had been bound for Ontario, California, was diverted about six minutes after taking off at 5:07 pm (local time) after one of its windows blew open mid-air. The aircraft landed safely with 174 passengers and six crew members in Portland, Oregon.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Portland Updated on: January 06, 2024 16:19 IST
One of the mid-cabin windows of an Alaska Airlines Boeing
Image Source : REUTERS One of the mid-cabin windows of an Alaska Airlines Boeing plane blew open mid-air.

Alaska Airlines on late Friday grounded all of its Boeing 737-9 aircraft hours after a window and a chunk of fuselage on one of its planes blew open mid-air after take-off, forcing an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. The gaping bole caused the cabin to depressurise as the plane reached a height of 16,000 feet (4,876 m) before returning to Portland.

“Following tonight's event on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement. Each of the aircraft will be returned to service after full maintenance and safety inspections that is said to take some days, according to Minicucci.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which had been bound for Ontario, California, was diverted about six minutes after taking off at 5:07 pm (local time) and landed at 5:26 pm, according to flight tracking data from FlightAware. 

"While this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation," Alaska Airlines said. The airline provided no immediate information about whether anyone was injured or the possible cause, but said that the aircraft landed safely with 174 passengers and six crew members.

A passenger sent a picture to the media showing a gaping hole in the side of the airplane next to passenger seats. Video shared with the station showed people wearing oxygen masks and passengers clapping as the plane landed.

The pilot told Portland air traffic controllers that the plane had an emergency, was depressurised and needed to return to the airport, according to a recording made by the website LiveATC.net.

Investigation underway

Additionally, the US National Transportation Safety Board that it was investigating an event on the flight and would post updates when they were available. The Federal Aviation Administration also said it would investigate. Boeing said it was aware of the incident, working to gather more information and ready to support the investigation.

"We are aware of the incident involving Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. We are working to gather more information and are in contact with our airline customer. A Boeing technical team stands ready to support the investigation," said Boeing.

The Boeing 737-9 MAX involved in the incident rolled off the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to online FAA records. It has been on 145 flights since entering commercial service, according to FlightRadar24. The Max is the newest version of Boeing's venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle plane frequently used on US domestic flights.

Two Max 8 jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people and leading to a nearly two-year worldwide 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.

The FAA has carefully scrutinized the MAX for years, saying in 2021 it was tracking all 737 MAX airplanes using satellite data. Boeing is awaiting certification of its smaller 737 MAX 7 and larger MAX 10.

(with inputs from agencies)

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