Oregon (Agencies): Alaska Airlines has announced the temporary grounding of its fleet of Boeing 737 Max-9 aircraft following a mid-air incident. A section of the fuselage and a window of one of these planes detached during flight, necessitating an emergency landing in Oregon, USA.
The aircraft, carrying 174 passengers and six crew members, safely returned to Portland 35 minutes into a scheduled flight to California. The flight data indicated that the plane had ascended to an altitude of 16,000ft (4876m) before initiating its emergency descent.
The incident occurred on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California. In response, the airline has decided to temporarily ground its fleet of 65 Boeing Max-9 planes pending a full investigation.
The Max-9, the latest model in Boeing’s 737 series of twin-engine, single-aisle planes, is commonly used for domestic flights in the US. It entered service in May 2017.
Images shared on social media show a large hole in the left side of the affected aircraft, behind the wing and engine. The seat nearest to the damaged area, which was reportedly unoccupied, also appears to have been affected.
Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci expressed his sympathy for the passengers on the flight, thanking the pilots and flight attendants for their response. Boeing has acknowledged the incident and is gathering more information, with a technical team ready to assist in the investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the aircraft reported a pressurization issue and has initiated an investigation.
The Boeing 737 Max series has been under intense scrutiny following safety investigations triggered by two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in 346 fatalities. The Max was grounded for 18 months from March 2019, and significant safety modifications were made to each aircraft before they could resume operations. According to manufacturer data, approximately 1,300 Boeing 737 Max-9 planes are currently in operation.