If You Think You've Had a Scary Flight, This May Beat It

Alaska Airlines plane makes emergency landing in Oregon after panel flies off, leaving huge hole
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2024 11:30 AM CST
Updated Jan 6, 2024 1:00 PM CST

A flight from Oregon took a frightening turn as the weekend kicked off, though no one was hurt. KING 5 reports that the Alaska Airlines plane out of Portland International Airport on Friday afternoon—a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet headed to Ontario, California—was forced to turn around and return to the Oregon airport after an entire panel blew off the plane midflight, leaving a hole in the side of the jet that one passenger tells KGW was about the size of a refrigerator. Per FlightAware, Flight 1282 took off just before 5pm local time and was back at PDX around 5:30. Soon after takeoff, a passenger who IDed herself just as Elizabeth tells KGW that "everything was going fine until we heard a loud bang ... a boom. 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."

Another passenger says she was woken up by the commotion and was shocked to see the hole in the side of the plane, which the AP notes was carrying six crew members and 174 passengers. "The first thing I thought was, 'I'm going to die,'" Portland's Vi Nguyen tells the New York Times. Nguyen's friend Elizabeth Le says no one was sitting right next to where the panel blew off, but she says flight attendants helped move a mother and son sitting in the middle aisle to other seats after the panel disappeared. That child's shirt was reportedly sucked off his body, though he and his mom were relatively OK afterward. It's not yet clear what caused the panel to fly off, though one expert explains that "excessive difference in the air pressure inside versus outside the cabin could have caused the wall to break off," per the Times,

The paper notes Max planes' "troubled history." No matter what the cause, video circulating on social media shows the relatively calm passengers, oxygen masks dangling over their heads, as the plane descended back to Portland. The Port of Portland and the Federal Aviation Administration both confirmed the incident, with the FAA citing a "pressurization issue." On Saturday, the FAA ordered airlines to stop flying 171 of the 737 Max 9 aircraft to allow for inspections, per CNBC. The order applies to US airlines as well as any carriers operating in US territory. Earlier Saturday, Alaska Airlines announced it would be temporarily grounding its entire fleet of Boeing Max 9 planes for maintenance and safety checks. A probe by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board is ongoing. This file has been updated with the FAA grounding announcement. (More Alaska Airlines stories.)

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