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What to know about Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 whose door blew off?

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 made an emergency landing after a panel on the side of the plane blew off mid flight

Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9

BS Web Team New Delhi
A cabin panel flew off in midair during an Alaska Airlines flight, leaving a gaping hole in the plane's fuselage and forcing an emergency landing. The incident took place on Saturday. Social media images showed emergency oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling as terrified passengers crouched in their seats.
Here’s all you need to know about the incident and the Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner:

What happened to the Alaska Air Flight 1282?

Alaska Air Flight 1282 suffered a blowout that left a gaping hole in the side of the fuselage. En route to Ontario, California, the jet made an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

Flight data showed the plane climbed to 16,000 feet (4,876 metres) before the incident took place, with the hole causing the cabin to depressurise.

What happened to the blown-off piece of Alaska Airlines plane?

The missing piece of the Alaska Airlines plane that blew off mid-flight has been found in a backyard in Portland, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

A Portland school teacher named Bob contacted the agency after finding the missing Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage door plug in his yard, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said.

Federal investigators had been searching for the door plug since it blew off an Alaska Airlines aircraft shortly after taking off from Portland on Friday night, leading to the nationwide grounding of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft and a slew of flight cancellations.

The agency had called for the public's assistance in locating the part and had planned to resume the search on Sunday, potentially using a helicopter or drones.

Were passengers on Alaska Airlines injured in the blowout?

The plane safely landed with all 174 passengers and six crew members on board.

No passengers were sitting adjacent to the cabin panel. However, according to The Oregonian newspaper, a young boy seated in the row had his shirt ripped off by the sudden decompression, injuring him slightly. Several other passengers also suffered injuries.

"Those individuals received medical attention and have now been medically cleared," according to the airline.

What was the cause of the midair incident?

Alaska Airlines has not offered any details on the likely cause. However, the NTSB and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have stated that they will investigate the incident.

How old was the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane?

According to FAA records, the new Boeing 737 Max 9 involved in the incident was delivered to Alaska Airlines in late October and certified in early November. It had only been in operation for eight weeks.

The Max is Boeing's newest version of the 737, and went into service in May 2017.

Boeing 737 Max 9: How many planes have been grounded?

Federal officials in the United States have ordered that all Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners operated by US airlines or flown in the US by foreign carriers be temporarily grounded until they are thoroughly inspected.

The directive affects 171 planes globally, with inspections expected to take about four to eight hours per aircraft.  In the US, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are the only carriers using the Max 9.

Alaska Airlines cancelled 160 flights on Saturday, 20 per cent of scheduled trips, while United cancelled 104 flights, 4 per cent of departures.

Alaska Airlines stated that the disruptions were likely to last through at least midweek.

Past safety concerns about Boeing 737 Max jets

Boeing 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide for almost two years after a crash in Indonesia in October 2018, which killed 189 people, and another in Ethiopia five months later, which killed 157 people.

The aircraft was permitted to fly again after Boeing revamped its automated flight-control system that had activated erroneously in both crashes.

Which airlines in India are flying the Boeing 737 Max 9?

Aviation safety regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Saturday directed Akasa Air, Air India Express, and SpiceJet to conduct a “one-time inspection” of emergency exits on all Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft in their fleet by Sunday noon.

At present, over 40 Boeing 737 Max-8 planes are in operation across these three carriers in India, while there are no 737 Max-9 aircraft in the fleet of any Indian airline, reported the Indian Express.

What has the Indian regulator done after Boeing's mid-flight blowout incident?

While the question of “plugged door“ does not arise for any flights in India, the Indian regulator asked all operators to conduct a check on its aircraft by Sunday noon, a deadline which has passed and planes are in the air. This inspection was directed toward the other emergency exits, which do not have a mechanism to hold it in place and make it inoperative since they are to be used in case of emergency.

Beyond this, the regulator, as well as the operators, are glued to the directives from the FAA, which is actively investigating the Alaska Air incident.

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First Published: Jan 08 2024 | 12:37 PM IST

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