New revelations about what occurred onboard Alaska Airlines flight 1282, operated by a Boeing 737-9 MAX, paint a more concerning picture of the terrifying incident that led to a nationwide grounding of this jet type for further inspections.
Preliminary Investigation Reveals Irregularities On Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX Flight
The aircraft type was involved in a freak incident over Portland, Oregon on Friday, January 5, 2024. A “plugged” rear mid-cabin emergency exit door on an Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX (essentially, part of the fuselage) separated from the aircraft minutes after takeoff, triggering a rapid decompression event. An emergency was declared and the aircraft returned to Portland. No injuries were reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating.
Diagram of a Boeing 737-9 mid-cabin door plug and components (Source: Boeing) pic.twitter.com/7qPF5MGAOX
— NTSB Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) January 8, 2024
Further facts have emerged about what occurred onboard which are quite concerning:
- On three prior flights, this aircraft’s (registration number N704AL) auto pressurization fail warning light came on in the flight deck:
- December 7, 2023
- January 3, 2024
- January 4, 2024
- It was for this reason this aircraft was pulled off ETOPS (overwater) service
- Alaska 1282 was initially delayed by about 20 minutes in Portland (PDX) for de-icing
- Passengers reported a loud “bang” and jolt in the cabin when the door plug separated from the fuselage, though it was not clear for those in the front of the aircraft what had happened
- The cockpit door flung open and jammed into the lavatory door (which was empty)
- A quick reference checklist flew out of the cockpit door
- The first officer jolted forward and his headset flew off
- The circuit breaker to the cockpit voice recorder was not pulled, so the recorder was empty
- Not only seat 26A, but 26B were open (the location of the blowout)
- The decompression pulled the cushions off the seats and also the tray table off 26A
- Oxygen masks did not properly deploy in all seats
- “Additional damage” occurred in rows 1 through 4, 11 and 12, 25 through 27 and 31 through 33
- The extent and nature of the damage is not clear
The plug, as well as two mobile phones that flew out, have been located in the backyard of a Portland home.
What’s next? Per NPR:
NTSB teams spent Sunday documenting damage to the frame. They have looked for paint transfers and are sending some components, such as the stop fittings, to a laboratory to be examined, where the NTSB will search for things like fractures and shears under a microscope.
There is not necessarily a correlation between the prior auto-pressurization warning lights and the incident last Friday. Even so, the totality of the emerging facts suggests that Alaska may have been cavalier in not getting to the root of that issue in a more timely manner.
The jolt from the fuselage separation of Alaska Airlines 1282 was sufficient to send the reinforced cockpit door flying open and jam it into the lavatory door outside. It appears that not all oxygen masks were properly deployed and this particular aircraft was not without prior issues.
I will not speculate further here beyond saying I am very thankful that this did not happen at a higher altitude. Can you imagine if this occurred at 35,000 feet when the seatbelt light was off?
image: Instagram / @strawberrvy