FAA Halts Operations of Over 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 Aircraft Following Blown-Out Section on Alaska Airlines Plane

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Passenger oxygen masks hang from the roof next to a missing window and a portion of a side wall of an Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which had been bound for Ontario, California and suffered depressurization soon after departing, in Portland, Oregon, U.S., on Jan. 5, 2024, in this picture obtained from social media.

Instagram/@strawberrvy | Instagram/@strawberrvy Via Reute

The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday ordered a temporary grounding of dozens of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft for inspections, a day after a piece of the aircraft blew out in the middle of an Alaska Airlines flight.

Images and video of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 that were shared on social media showed a gaping hole on the side of the plane and passengers using oxygen masks before it returned to Portland shortly after taking off for Ontario, California, on Friday afternoon.

The FAA’s emergency airworthiness directive will affect about 171 planes worldwide and applies to U.S. airlines and carriers operating in U.S. territory, the agency said. Alaska and United Airlines said late Saturday that they were grounding their entire fleets of Boeing 737 Max 9s.

No serious injuries were reported on the flight, according to federal safety officials. There were 171 passengers and six crewmembers on board, Alaska Air said.

“Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement.

Large-scale groundings of aircraft by the FAA or other aviation authorities are rare. The FAA has heavily scrutinized the Boeing 737 Max since two fatal crashes grounded the jetliner worldwide almost five years ago. Two other models of the Max, the smallest and largest version, have not yet been cleared by the agency to enter commercial service.

The section of the fuselage missing appeared to correspond to an exit not used by Alaska Airlines, or other carriers that don’t have high-density seating configurations, and was plugged.

The National Transportation Safety Board has started its investigation. Chair Jennifer Homendy, at a press briefing in Portland Saturday night, asked the public for help in finding the plane’s missing door.

Homendy said no passengers were seated at the seat closest to the panel or the middle seat in the row where the door blew out and added that it was fortunate that the plane was still climbing and not at cruising altitude when travelers and crew could have been standing or walking through the cabin.

“We could have ended up with something more tragic,” she said.

The incident was described as “an explosive decompression at the window exit,” according to Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the labor union that represents Alaska’s cabin crew and flight attendants at United, Spirit and other carriers.

Anthony Brickhouse, a professor of aerospace safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said such an incident is extremely rare.

“Rapid decompression is a serious matter,” he said. “To see a gaping hole in an aircraft is not something we typically see. In aviation safety, we would call this a structural failure.”

The incident is also a reminder to keep your seatbelt fastened when seated, he added.

“I always advise people on a commercial aircraft, keep your seatbelt on regardless of what the light says,” Brickhouse said.

Before the FAA issued its directive, Alaska Airlines earlier said it would ground its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. On Saturday, the carrier said 18 of the planes “had in-depth and thorough plug door inspections performed as part of a recent heavy maintenance visit,” but later said it would temporarily ground them all.

“We are in touch with the FAA to determine what, if any, further work is required before these aircraft are returned to service,” Alaska said.

As of 7 p.m. ET, Alaska said it canceled 160 flights, affecting 23,000 customers.

Investigation begins

Plugged door

(The following story may or may not have been edited by NEUSCORP.COM and was generated automatically from a Syndicated Feed. NEUSCORP.COM also bears no responsibility or liability for the content.)

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