An Alaska Airlines flight returned to Portland, Oregon, soon after takeoff after it “experienced an incident,” prompting the airline to ground its Boeing 737-9 fleet temporarily.
Scary Accident Causes Entire Fleet To Be Grounded
Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which was headed from Portland to Ontario, California, returned safely to Portland International Airport around 5 p.m. PT after “the crew reported a pressurization issue,” the Federal Aviation Administration said.
A panel of the fuselage, including the panel’s window, popped off shortly after takeoff, passenger Kyle Rinker told CNN.
“It was really abrupt. Just got to altitude, and the window/wall just popped off, and I didn’t notice it until the oxygen masks came off,” Rinker said.
The airline said six crew members and 171 passengers were on board Flight 1282 bound for Ontario, California.
The cabin became depressurized shortly after takeoff, and the pilots asked for an emergency landing, according to the transcript of an air traffic control call from LiveATC.net.
According to FlightAware, the flight was airborne for about 20 minutes. The plane departed from Portland International Airport around 5:07 p.m. local time and landed at 5:27 p.m.
Photos provided to local outlets and shared on social media show a large chunk of the plane’s fuselage missing from the back left side of the plane.
Evan Smith, a passenger on the flight, told CNN affiliate KPTV that he was sitting at least six rows in front of the section where the incident took place. “There was a really loud bang toward the rear of the plane and a whoosh noise and all of the masks dropped,” Smith said.
Emma Vu, another passenger, was asleep and woke up to a sensation of falling and seeing emergency masks drop down, she told CNN in a phone call. She apparently woke up after the panel section popped off; it wasn’t clear how close to the missing panel she was.
One video from the incident posted on TikTok shows passengers wearing oxygen masks as the plane descends. The gaping hole on the plane’s side is visible.
“The safety of our guests and employees is always our primary priority,” Alaska said in a statement, “so while this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.”
CEO Ben Minicucci called the grounding “precautionary,” saying in a statement the 65 planes will return to service “only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections.”
“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred tonight, and will share updates as more information is available,” Minicucci said.
The damage that led to the emergency landing appeared to be in the location of a “plug,” said John J. Nance, an ABC News aviation analyst. Those are spots in the fuselage shaped similar to a door that aren’t designed to open, even when the aircraft is on the ground. If the airline needs an extra boarding door, they could be converted to doors.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 has been in service since October 2023.