Passengers and crew members experienced a horror trip on board an Alaska Airlines flight on Friday. On the way from Portland to Ontario, the plane lost part of a wall a few minutes after takeoff. The reason for this is still unclear. The plane then returned to Portland and landed safely, the airline said in a statement. Apparently there were no serious injuries.
Luckily, the seat next to the gaping hole was empty. A boy and his mother, who were sitting in the seats next to them, were brought to safety by flight attendants. A man in the row behind reported an injury to his foot after landing, but the other passengers appeared to be physically fine.
The travelers were still shocked. “I open my eyes and the first thing I see is the oxygen mask right in front of me,” Vi Nguyen describes the situation to the New York Times. Nguyen was himself a guest on Flight 1282. "I look to the left and the wall on the side of the plane is gone. At first I thought I was dying."
Passengers report a loud bang and a sudden rush of air. Videos on social networks show the guests wearing oxygen masks and the hole in the outside wall. But the situation turns out to be mild. Travelers were taken to their destination on a later flight.
The US airline's CEO, Ben Minicucci, then apologized in writing to those on board: "My condolences go out to those who were on this flight - I am so sorry for what you experienced. I am so grateful for the response our pilots and flight attendants."
The airline is also drawing conclusions: Alaska Airlines is grounding all of its affected Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft for the time being - this affects a fifth of the entire fleet. According to CNN, the 65 aircraft will be completely checked in the coming days before they are allowed to take off again.
The incident is likely to alarm airlines and the manufacturer Boeing. The accident investigation agency NTSB and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the incident. In contrast to the benign outcome on Friday, two emergencies in 2018 and 2019 ended catastrophically and led to the entire 737 Max series being grounded. There were a total of 346 deaths in the two crashes. The main cause is believed to be a faulty control program that caused the machines to crash to the ground.
Boeing then revised the type and gradually received re-certifications. However, the medium-haul jet continued to make headlines with production defects and put a strain on the manufacturer's balance sheet.
Sources: Alaska Airlines, "New York Times", CNN, with information from DPA