Alaska Airlines grounds Boeing 737-9 fleet following midair window blowout

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NEW DELHI: In a response to a severe in-flight emergency, Alaska Airlines has suspended operations of its entire Boeing 737-9 fleet. The decision came late Friday, following an alarming incident where a window and part of the fuselage on one of their planes blew out midair, necessitating an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
The incident unfolded shortly after Flight 1282 took off, with the plane reaching an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,876 meters) before the crew was forced to make an emergency descent back to Portland International Airport.The sudden decompression of the cabin, caused by the gaping hole, led to a rapid response from the flight crew to ensure passenger safety.

The aircraft, carrying 174 passengers and six crew members, landed safely, the airline said. The airline provided no immediate information about whether anyone was injured or the possible cause.
In a decisive move, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci announced the grounding of the airline’s Boeing 737-9 fleet. “Following tonight’s event on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft,” Minicucci said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are expected to conduct detailed investigations to determine the cause of the fuselage failure.

The Boeing 737-9 is part of the MAX series, which only returned to the skies after extensive safety reviews and modifications. This latest incident raises new questions about the series’ safety and could have broader implications for the aviation industry.
According to FlightAware, a flight tracking service, the plane was diverted back to Portland just six minutes after its 5:07 pm takeoff and managed a safe landing at 5:26 pm. It was further reported that the pilot reported the depressurization emergency and the urgent need to return to the airport.

Passengers aboard the flight shared alarming images and videos with KATU-TV in Portland, showing a significant hole next to passenger seats and people wearing oxygen masks during the ordeal. The footage also captured the moment of relief as passengers applauded the successful landing.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has taken to X, to confirm their investigation into the event. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also announced its intention to conduct a thorough probe.

The aircraft involved, a Boeing 737-9 MAX, is a relatively new addition to the fleet, having been certified just two months ago, as per FAA records. FlightRadar24 reported that the plane had completed 145 flights since its commercial service debut on November 11 and had flown twice earlier on the day of the incident.
Boeing has responded to the event, stating their awareness of the situation and their readiness to assist in the investigation. The Boeing 737 MAX series, particularly the Max 8 model, has been under scrutiny following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, which led to the grounding of the Max 8 and Max 9 models for nearly two years. Modifications to the automated flight control system were implemented before the planes returned to service.
Recent FAA advisories have highlighted concerns with the Max series, including a directive to limit the use of anti-ice systems in dry conditions due to overheating risks. Additionally, Boeing has addressed several manufacturing flaws, including a directive last December for inspections of a possible loose bolt in the rudder-control system.
(With inputs from agencies)

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