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PORTLAND, Ore. — An Alaska Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at the Portland International Airport (PDX) on Friday night after a large panel on the side of the plane blew out mid-flight.
According to the flight tracking site FlightAware, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was heading from PDX to Ontario, California. It departed at 4:52 p.m., then had to turn back around; the airplane landed in Portland at 5:27 p.m. — an hour and 20 minutes earlier than its planned arrival in California.
“Everything was going fine until we heard a loud bang … a boom,” Elizabeth recalled. “I look up, and the air masks are popped down, and I look down to my left, and there’s a huge, gaping hole on the left side, where the window is.”
While people were shaken, no one was hurt, though a child’s shirt got pulled through the opening, she said. The child and the mother were sitting across the aisle when the panel blew out, and Elizabeth told KGW that she heard the mom had to drag her son back inside, his skin reddened by the wind.
“Everybody got their masks on. Cabin crew was very calm, going around, trying got take care of everybody and see what was going on. Pilot did a good job,” he said. “Shows you how structurally strong those planes are: You could blow a hole in it like that. The hole was about as wide as a refrigerator and about two-thirds as high when I finally got to see it later.”
Flight information shows that the plane was a twin-jet Boeing 737 MAX 9. According to FAA records, the aircraft’s certification date was Nov. 2, 2023, less than three months old. Boeing also said it was helping investigate. Alaska Airlines announced Friday night it would ground it’s fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 MAX Aircraft. In a statement, CEO Ben Minicucci said each aircraft would be returned to service after a full maintenance and safety inspection which they expect will take a few days.
The panel in question was identified as a window panel, it was not, it was a fake door.
Alaska MAX-9 Fleet And Door Layout
Alaska Airlines announced that it is grounding all of its 737 MAX-9 aircraft for inspections after a plugged passenger door failed in flight.
In Alaska service, the 737 MAX-9 or (737-9) has seats for 178 passengers, which explains why this door wasn’t in use. 737s with 190 or more passenger seats need these extra doors (plus other provisions) for evacuation purposes.
But airlines that fit fewer seats can deactivate these doors. This is what Alaska is doing on its 737 MAX-9 fleet because the plug is lighter than a normal door. From the inside, there is little to indicate that this is a door opening – apart from the odd spacing between the passenger windows.
This arrangement is not unique to Alaska or even to Boeing aircraft. Many Airbus A321s worldwide have similar-looking plugs on the doors immediately behind the wing. An aircraft manufacturer can install such plugs if the airline wants them. But airlines can re-activate the doors at a later date, if necessary.