A passenger plane operated by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing in Oregon after losing a section of its fuselage mid-air.
The incident occurred during a flight from Portland to California, prompting the aircraft, a Boeing 737 Max 9, to return to its departure airport just 35 minutes into the journey. Fortunately, the plane landed safely, and all 177 passengers and crew members onboard were unharmed.
Following the incident, Alaska Airlines made the decision to temporarily ground all 65 of its 737 Max 9 aircraft to conduct thorough inspections.
The airline’s CEO, Ben Minicucci, stated that each aircraft would only be returned to service after undergoing comprehensive maintenance and safety checks.
Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft, acknowledged the incident and expressed its commitment to gathering more information. The UK Civil Aviation Authority also confirmed that it is closely monitoring the situation.
The images captured after the incident showed a section of the plane’s fuselage missing, including a window, with the night sky visible through the gap.
Debris and insulation material were also observed. Passengers reported that the affected section included an unoccupied window seat, which was seen leaning forward without its cushion.
Hey @Boeing get your shit together. You are an American company and this is absolutely a national embarrassment!
You get billions and billions of dollars from defense contracts, NASA contracts, and taxpayers. We deserve better.pic.twitter.com/9KQ8tmaRmI
— MattA (@MattAAW) January 6, 2024
The pilot of the flight, in communication with air traffic control, requested a diversion and stated the need to descend due to depressurization. The affected area of the fuselage was located in the back third of the plane, behind the wing and engines.
It should be noted that this particular section of the fuselage is not used as an additional emergency exit door by Alaska Airlines, although it may be utilized by other operators of the same aircraft type.
The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) confirmed that the crew reported a pressurization issue, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the incident.
The Boeing 737 Max has faced significant scrutiny and safety concerns in the past, resulting in a grounding of the aircraft in 2019 after two crashes that claimed the lives of all onboard.
To resume operations, each Max plane underwent extensive modifications, although these changes are not visible from the outside and do not impact passengers’ experience.
Boeing recently resolved a supply error, enabling an increased pace of 737 Max deliveries. It is worth noting that approximately 1,300 737 Max aircraft have been delivered to customers, according to Boeing data.
Last month, the FAA advised airlines to inspect Max models for potential issues with loose bolts in the rudder control systems.