FAA and EASA Ground 737s in Wake of Alaska Airlines Explosive Decompression

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A section of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 blew out during flight on January 4 as the aircraft departed Portland International Airport (KPDX) en route to Ontario, California (KONT). The aircraft experienced an explosive decompression, and the flight crew returned to KPDX.

As a result, the FAA ordered an emergency grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 9s pending inspection. EASA, Europe’s civil aviation consortium, validated the missive for aircraft under EASA-affiliate country registrations. Those inspections continue this week, causing some flight cancellations across the U.S.

A photograph sent to Portland television station KPTV by a passenger shows a gap in the fuselage where a window would normally be and the oxygen masks deployed. A photograph taken from the exterior of the aircraft when it was on the ground shows it was a rear door that was blown out. According to industry officials, it is a panel called a “plug door,” and it can be used as a door or as a window for an extra row of seats.

There were reports of only minor injuries. One passenger reported that the force of depressurization pulled a child’s shirt off their body.

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According to FlightAware.com, the flight took off from Portland at 4:52 p.m. PST, reaching an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet, then descended and returned to the airport by 5:27 p.m. 

According to a statement from Alaska Airlines, “Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, experienced an incident this evening soon after departure. The aircraft landed safely back at Portland International Airport with 174 guests and six6 crew members. We are investigating what happened and will share more information as it becomes available.”

The Boeing Company reports having a technical team supporting the investigation, stating, “We are aware of the incident involving Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. We are working to gather more information and are in contact with our airline customer.”

The FAA notes that the agency, along with the National Transportation and Safety Board, are investigating the incident.

The original story was posted on FLYINGmag.com and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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