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Alaska Airlines grounds all Boeing 737-9 MAX planes after mid-flight window blowout

Alaska Airlines grounds all Boeing 737-9 MAX planes after mid-flight window blowout

A passenger has described the moment a window and chunk of fuselage blew out of a passenger plane in mid-air shortly after take-off in the US state of Oregon.

Alaska Airlines passenger Evan Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window blew out and the boy’s shirt was torn off him and sucked out of the plane.

“You heard a big loud bang to the left rear. A whooshing sound and all the oxygen masks deployed instantly and everyone got those on,” he told local broadcaster KATU.
Photos and videos from passengers showed a large hole in the side of the plane next to passenger seats, with oxygen masks deployed.

The airline has since grounded all of its Boeing 737-9 MAX planes after the gaping hole caused the cabin to depressurise.
The Boeing 737-9 MAX was diverted after reaching 16,000ft about six minutes after taking off at 5.07pm, according to flight tracking data from FlightAware. It made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport at 5.26pm.

Alaska Airlines said the plane landed safely with 171 passengers and six crew members.


The flight from Portland to Ontario, California, “experienced an incident this evening soon after departure”, the company said.

“While this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane landed safely after the crew reported a pressurisation issue. It said it would investigate.
Footage and photos taken inside the plane show the night sky through the hole in the aircraft’s fuselage.

The nearest seat is missing its cushion and insulation material can be seen around the gap.

Exterior photos suggest the rear mid-cabin exit door separated from the aircraft during the flight.

The MAX 9 features a rear cabin door behind the wings that can be “activated in dense seating configurations to meet evacuation requirements”, according to FlightRadar24, but these are permanently “plugged” or deactivated on Alaska Airlines planes.

The Boeing 737-9 MAX came off the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to online FAA records.

It had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service on 11 November, according to FlightRadar24. The flight from Portland was the aircraft’s third of the day.