Authorities have revealed that the plug door on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 blew out after takeoff from Portland International Airport (PDX) on Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a press conference on Sunday evening to address the first full day of the investigation. During the conference, it was announced that a missing plug door, described as yellowish-green on one side and white on the other, was found by a Portland teacher. Additionally, two cellphones were recovered by local residents in Beaverton.
Shortly after the press conference, the NTSB called for a second one, where they announced that the plug door was found in the backyard of a resident named “Bob,” who happened to be a Portland school teacher. On Saturday, the NTSB focused on the preliminary stages of the investigation, specifically on the aircraft involved in Friday’s incident. Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB Chair, stated that it appeared that a cabin plug door fell off, resulting in rapid decompression. This plug door is part of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 design, allowing for the addition of an emergency exit if an airline desires to accommodate more passengers. However, this was not the case with the Alaska Airlines plane, rendering the door non-functional as an exit. Homendy confirmed that there were no major injuries to the passengers.
Further details about the damage inside the plane were revealed, such as a seat near the gaping hole missing its headrest and back, with scattered pieces of clothing. Fortunately, no one was seated in the vicinity of the broken plug door. Homendy also commended the crew and first responders for their swift and decisive action, expressing relief that the incident occurred only ten minutes after takeoff, before the aircraft reached its cruise altitude.
The NTSB is now requesting photos and videos taken inside the aircraft to aid in the investigation. They can be emailed to [email protected]. However, many questions remain unanswered, including how exactly the plug door detached and which agency or agencies approved the certification for the aircraft. The investigation is ongoing, and more updates are expected in the coming days. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing, Alaska Airlines, the Airline Pilots Association, and the Association of Flight Attendants are all participating in the fact-finding phase of the investigation.
In response to the incident, United Airlines has temporarily suspended flights involving Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft for inspection. This suspension is necessary to comply with the FAA’s requirement for immediate inspections before the aircraft can return to service. The FAA has estimated that each inspection will take between 4 to 8 hours per aircraft, affecting a total of 171 aircraft worldwide.
Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, confirmed that they do not operate the Boeing 737 MAX 9 and stated that their fleet and operations remain unaffected. Alaska Airlines announced that crews had inspected the paneled-over exits of 18 planes as part of recent maintenance work, allowing them to clear these planes for service. The inspection process for the remaining aircraft in their fleet is expected to be completed in the coming days.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA expressed support for the FAA’s decision to ground certain 737 MAX 9 aircraft that do not meet the inspection cycles specified in the Emergency Airworthiness Directive. They commended the entire crew of Alaska Flight 1282 for their actions during the emergency landing. The NTSB has also dispatched a team to Portland to conduct their investigation.
Regarding the Boeing 737 MAX 9, the FAA had previously inspected these aircraft in December due to concerns about a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system. The aircraft involved in the incident had received its certification just two months ago and had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service. Boeing has released a statement expressing their regret for the impact of the event and their full support for the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections. They are also providing technical assistance to the NTSB’s investigation.
Despite the shaken passengers, those onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 praised the calmness and efficiency of the crew during the emergency landing. Passengers commended the cabin crew and pilot for their exceptional performance in handling the situation.