Alaska Airlines has grounded all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after a window and a chunk of fuselage blew out on one of the aircraft in mid-air shortly after takeoff.
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 had to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Portland, Oregon, on Friday.
A passenger sent the broadcaster KATU-TV a photo showing a gaping hole in the side of the airplane next to passenger seats. The airline said the plane, carrying 174 passengers and six crew members, landed safely.
Evan Smith, who was among those on board, told KATU that a boy sitting in a row with his motherhad his shirt sucked off him and out of the plane. “His mother was holding on to him,” he said. “You heard a big loud bang to the left rear. A whooshing sound and all the oxygen masks deployed instantly and everyone got those on.”
Another 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.”
Yet another passenger, Emma Vu, told CNN that she sent a text message to her parents with their code word for emergencies to let them know about what was happening on the plane. “I’ve never had to use it before – but I knew that this was the moment.”
Vu said people on either side of her, along with a flight attendant, comforted her and assured her “it was going to be OK”.
“The fact that everyone was kind of freaking out and [the attendant] took that time to kind of make me feel like I was the only passenger – honestly that was really sweet,” Vu added.
In an emailed statement, Alaska Airlines said: “Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, experienced an incident this evening soon after departure.”
On Saturday morning the company said it had taken the “precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing Max-9 aircraft”.
The plane was diverted after rising to 16,000ft (4,875 metres) about six minutes after takeoff at 5.07 pm on Friday, according to flight-tracking data from the FlightAware website. It landed again at 5.26pm.
The news outlet KPTV-TV reported photos sent in by a passenger showing a large section of the plane’s fuselage missing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane landed safely after the crew reported a pressurisation issue. The agency was investigating.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a post on X that it was investigating an event on the flight and would post updates when they were available.
A passenger named Diego Murillo told KPTV that Alaska Airlines rebooked him on an 11pm flight out of Portland’s airport. Murillo said his family was prepared to arrive at their final destination at about 2am on Saturday – but beyond that, the airline provided little information to him about what had happened.
The Boeing 737 Max 9 at the center of Friday’s events rolled off the assembly line and received its certification two months ago, according to online FAA records. Boeing said it 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 plane frequently used on US domestic flights. The plane went into service in May 2017.
Two Max 8 planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people and leading to a near two-year worldwide grounding of all Max 8 and Max 9 planes. They returned to service only after Boeing made changes to an automated flight-control system implicated in the crashes.
Max deliveries have been interrupted at times to fix manufacturing flaws. In December, the company told airlines to inspect the planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder-control system.
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