Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci declared the temporary grounding of the airline’s 65 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft after an emergency landing prompted by a cabin panel blowout.
The decision is characterized as a precautionary measure, with the fleet set to resume operations only after thorough maintenance and safety inspections, expected to conclude in the “next few days.”
Emergency Landing Details:
Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, en route to Ontario, California, experienced the cabin panel incident shortly after takeoff at 5:06 p.m. Pacific Time.
The aircraft, carrying 171 passengers and six crew members, safely landed back at Portland, Oregon, at 5:26 p.m. External images suggested the detachment of a rear mid-cabin exit door panel, with reports of a missing window and part of a side wall.
Rare Incident Prompts Investigation:
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the depressurization incident, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that the crew reported a pressurization issue. Both agencies are actively involved in examining the circumstances surrounding the emergency landing.
According to FAA data, the affected MAX 9 was delivered to Alaska Airlines in late October and certified in early November.
In response to the incident, Boeing expressed its commitment to investigating and coordinating with the airline. The company mentioned having a technical team ready to support the ongoing investigation.
MAX 9 Features and Configuration:
The Boeing 737 MAX 9 model features a rear cabin door behind the wings, often deactivated for carriers not requiring additional seats.
Alaska Airlines, in particular, permanently deactivates this optional door, a feature inherited from the earlier 737-900ER model. This practice helps reduce weight and enhances cabin flexibility.
Ongoing Investigation and Responses:
Boeing and Alaska Airlines have not provided immediate comments regarding the specific details of the door or the incident.
The collaborative efforts between the airline, Boeing, NTSB, and FAA remain pivotal in determining the cause and ensuring the safe resumption of the 737 MAX 9 fleet’s operations.