Alaska Airlines grounding fleet of Boeing 737 Max jets for inspection after emergency landing

Alaska Airlines grounding fleet of Boeing 737 Max jets for inspection after emergency landing

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Alaska Airlines announced late Friday that it will ground all 65 of its Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft after a plane experienced “explosive decompression” mid-flight.

Photos and video shared by passengers show a window section of the plane completely missing, creating a large hole in the side of the fuselage, adjacent to a seat. 

The incident occurred on a flight from Portland, Ore., to Ontario, Calif., on Friday evening. The flight made an emergency landing in Portland, and no injuries were reported, the airline said.

Passenger Evan Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window blew out and the child’s shirt was sucked off him and 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,” Smith told KATU-TV.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said the airline will perform full safety inspections on its remaining Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft in order to ensure that they are safe to fly. The planes will remain out of service for a few days, he said.

“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred tonight, and will share updates as more information is available,” Minicucci said in a statement. “The NTSB is investigating this event and we will fully support their investigation.”

“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight — I am so sorry for what you experienced. I am so grateful for the response of our pilots and flight attendants,” he continued. “We have teams on the ground in Portland assisting passengers and are working to support guests who are traveling in the days ahead.”

The incident sparked a wave of flight cancelations for Alaska Airlines on Saturday. 

The Federal Aviation Administration also announced Saturday that it will temporarily ground certain Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft in the country for safety inspections.

“Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement.

The grounding continues a rough record for the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The airliners were previously kept out of service for nearly two years after a pair of 737 Max 8 crashes killed nearly 350 people in 2018 and 2019.

Last week, Boeing sent a letter to customer airlines to inspect their 737 Max jets for loose bolts after one was discovered in a production model.

On Wednesday, the company also asked the Federal Aviation Administration to grant a safety exemption for its new 737 Max 7 model over concerns about engine housing overheating, pledging a future solution.

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