FAA grounds more than 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets after major Alaska Airlines incident

Posted on 8 Jan 2024 by James Devonshire

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered more than 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets to be grounded following a major incident on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland International Airport in Oregon on Friday night. Not long into the flight, bound for Ontario, California, an emergency exit door blew out leaving a large hole in the aircraft’s fuselage, leaving the pilot no choice but to return to Portland and make an emergency landing.

Fortunately, the fact the plane was still in its climbing stage significantly reduced the impact of the incident. That’s because passengers would have been seated and wearing their seatbelts. Furthermore, the plane was only flying at around 16,000 feet, meaning the resulting cabin depressurisation would have been a lot less violent compared to if the plane was at its cruising height of 38,000 feet.

A Federal investigation is now underway to determine the cause of the incident and ensure something similar does not befall another aircraft in the future. In the meantime, the FAA has ordered the grounding of “certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft” until the agency is “satisfied that they are safe,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement Sunday. The move will affect about 171 planes worldwide and applies to US airlines and carriers operating in US territory, the FAA said.

“We are very fortunate here that this didn’t end up in something more tragic,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a news conference in Portland on Saturday. She extended “deepest sympathies to those that experienced what I imagine was truly terrifying.”

Alaska Airlines said in a statement on its website that “the safety of our guests and employees is always our primary priority, so while this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.”

CEO Ben Minicucci said in a follow-up statement that “my heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced.”

Posting on Twitter, Boeing said safety was its “top priority” and that the plane manufacturer “fully supports” the FAA’s decision to immediately inspect 737-9 aircraft with the same configuration as Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

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