Alaska Airlines 737 lands safely after window explodes nearly 3 miles above Oregon

PORTLAND, Oregon.-

An Alaska Airlines plane blew out a window and part of its fuselage shortly after takeoff, nearly three miles over Oregon, creating a gaping hole that sucked in a child’s clothing and forced the pilots to make an emergency landing while their 174 passengers and six crew members donned oxygen masks.

No one was seriously injured when the depressurized plane returned safely to Portland International Airport Friday night about 20 minutes after its departure, but the airline grounded its 65 Boeing 737-9 Max planes until they could be inspected. The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday it will also investigate.

Passenger Evan Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window exploded and the boy’s shirt was sucked off the plane.

“There was a big bang in the left rear. A hiss and all the oxygen masks were instantly deployed and everyone put them on,” Smith told KATU-TV.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said the inspection of the company’s fleet of 737-9 aircraft could take days to complete. They represent a fifth of the company’s 314 aircraft. It was not immediately known Saturday how that would affect the company’s flight schedule.

“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred… and will share updates as more information becomes available,” Minicucci said. “My heart goes out to those who were on this flight. I am so sorry for what they experienced.”

The Port of Portland, which operates the airport, told KPTV that the fire department treated minor injuries at the scene. One person was taken for further treatment but was not seriously injured.

Flight 1282 took off from Portland at 5:07 p.m. Friday for a two-hour flight to Ontario, California. About six minutes later, the window and a piece of the fuselage exploded when the plane was about 4.8 kilometers (16,000 feet). One of the pilots declared an emergency and requested clearance to descend to 10,000 feet (3 kilometers), the altitude where the air would have enough oxygen to breathe safely.

“We need to return to Portland,” the pilot told the controllers with a calm voice that she maintained throughout the landing process.

Videos posted by passengers online showed a gaping hole where the window had been and passengers wearing masks. They cheered when the plane landed safely about 13 minutes after the window burst. Firefighters then walked down the aisle and asked passengers to remain in their seats while they treated the injured.

The plane involved rolled off the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to online FAA records. The plane had made 145 flights since entering commercial service on Nov. 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the third of the day.

The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft frequently used on domestic flights in the United States. The aircraft entered service in May 2017.

The union representing flight attendants at 19 airlines, including Alaska Airlines, praised the crew for keeping passengers safe.

“Flight attendants are emergency trained and we work on every flight for aviation safety first and foremost,” the Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement Saturday.

Two Max 8 planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people and causing a nearly two-year global grounding of all Max 8 and Max 9 planes. The planes returned to service only after Boeing made changes to a crash system. automated flight control implicated in accidents.

Last year, the FAA told pilots to limit the use of an anti-icing system on the Max in dry conditions because of concerns that the inlets around the engines could overheat and rupture, possibly hitting the plane.

Peak deliveries have been interrupted at times to correct manufacturing defects. The company told airlines in December to inspect planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system.


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Associated Press reporters David Koenig in Dallas and Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.

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