What’s worse than spilling your coffee, milk, or any other drink on a flight?
It’s having an emergency landing because one of the doors of the plane you’re in blew off mid-air!
On the night of January 5th, a near-disastrous incident happened as an Alaskan Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9’s door went off during a flight about 10 minutes after it took off from Portland International Airport, subjecting the passengers to howling wind. This resulted in the pilot calling for an emergency landing.
Fortunately, none of the passengers or crew were seriously injured.
Following the incident, airlines have canceled hundreds of flights as they prepare to inspect around 200 Max 9 aircraft. These planes will be grounded until regulators and company officials, particularly the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), declare such aircraft are safe for use.
Based on aircraft inspections conducted by United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, there were “some loose hardware” and bolts in need of “additional tightening” on some Max 9s. The airlines said “installation issues” relating to door plugs would be “remedied” before the aircraft type would return to service.
Lost and Found: Flight 1282’s Missing Door Panel
The plane’s door plug was recovered from a Portland teacher’s backyard and was found without the four bolts, as per the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Its chair, Jennifer Homendy, told reporters that it’s possible the bolts were already missing from the start but they may have also come off in the descent.
The plug, measuring 26-by-46 inches and weighing 63 pounds, was used to seal unused exits on planes and was supposed to be attached to the plane with a series of bolts, cables, hinges and stop pads. The mid-air incident caused an “explosive decompression” of the Alaska Airlines aircraft and prompted the flight crew to immediately return to Portland with a gaping hole in the side of the jet.
Photo from BBC News
Homendy said had the incident occurred at 30,000 feet, the flight “could have ended up with something so much more tragic.”
The NTSB said pilots had already reported pressurization warning lights on three previous flights made by the specific Alaska Airlines Max 9 involved in the incident. Because of that, the jet had been prevented from making long-haul flights over water so that the plane “could return very quickly to an airport” in the event warnings happened again.
It is not yet clear if there is a link between the issues that led to those warnings and the issue that caused the blowout on January 5.
Homendy said that while the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was recovered from the plane, it contained no helpful data because it was programmed to reset and re-record every two hours.
She said investigators are closely examining the door plug and the frame it was blown out of, as well as all the components used to keep it in place to determine what really caused the incident. She said the investigation also includes interviews with the six-member flight crew and passengers.
Amid all the inspections and investigations on Max 9 aircraft, Boeing said in a statement:
“Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers.”
The company’s 737 Max has been described as “the most scrutinized transport aircraft in history” after a series of safety issues.
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