A passenger has described the moment a window and chunk of fuselage blew out of a passenger plane in mid-air shortly after take-off in the US state of Oregon.
Alaska Airlines passenger Evan Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window blew out and the boy’s shirt was torn off him and sucked out of the plane.
“You heard a big loud bang to the left rear. A whooshing sound and all the oxygen masks deployed instantly and everyone got those on,” he told local broadcaster KATU.
Photos and videos from passengers showed a large hole in the side of the plane next to passenger seats, with oxygen masks deployed.
The airline has since grounded all of its Boeing 737-9 MAX planes after the gaping hole caused the cabin to depressurise.
The Boeing 737-9 MAX was diverted after reaching 16,000ft about six minutes after taking off at 5.07pm, according to flight tracking data from FlightAware. It made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport at 5.26pm.
Alaska Airlines said the plane landed safely with 171 passengers and six crew members.
The flight from Portland to Ontario, California, “experienced an incident this evening soon after departure”, the company said.
“While this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.”
The airline gave no information about injuries, but local broadcaster KPTV reported that according to the Port of Portland, the fire department responded and treated minor injuries at the scene and one person was taken for treatment but was not seriously hurt.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane landed safely after the crew reported a pressurisation issue. It said it would investigate.
Night sky seen through hole in fuselage
Footage and photos taken inside the plane show the night sky through the hole in the aircraft’s fuselage.
The nearest seat is missing its cushion and insulation material can be seen around the gap.
Exterior photos suggest the rear mid-cabin exit door separated from the aircraft during the flight.
The MAX 9 features a rear cabin door behind the wings that can be “activated in dense seating configurations to meet evacuation requirements”, according to FlightRadar24, but these are permanently “plugged” or deactivated on Alaska Airlines planes.
The Boeing 737-9 MAX came off the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to online FAA records.
It had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service on 11 November, according to FlightRadar24. The flight from Portland was the aircraft’s third of the day.
British aviation authority ‘monitoring situation very closely’
The National Transport Safety Board said it was investigating the incident in a post on X.
A spokesperson for the British Civil Aviation Authority told Sky News: “We are aware of this incident and monitoring the situation very closely.”
Alaska Airlines chief executive Ben Minicucci said each Boeing 737-9 MAX would only be returned to service after full maintenance and safety inspections, which he anticipated the airline would complete within days.
“Following tonight’s event on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft,” he said.
“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced.
“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred tonight, and will share updates as more information is available.”
Boeing 737 MAX had been grounded for year-and-a-half
Last week, Boeing said it was urging airlines to inspect all 737 MAX planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system.
The FAA said it was closely monitoring Boeing 737 MAX inspections and would consider additional action if more loose or missing hardware was found.
Written by: Newsroom