Investigation ordered after aircraft panel lost during flight


The US air safety regulator has banned several Boeing 737 Max 9 jets from taking off pending thorough inspections. This comes a day after a panel of one of these types of Alaska Airlines aircraft tore loose while the aircraft was in the air.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says a sealed door panel opened and came off in the middle of a flight to Ontario, California.

Alaska Airlines flight 1282 departed from Portland International Airport when the cabin crew of this shipping company reported a problem with the pressure in the cabin shortly after.

The plane quickly returned to Portland and none of the 171 passengers or staff were injured in the incident.

A video taken by a passenger on board the plane shows a large gap on the side of the plane and oxygen masks hanging in the cabin.


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Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said that because of the incident, he decided to take the necessary precautions and temporarily banned the airline’s fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9s from takeoff.

“Each aircraft will only be put into service after the completion of full maintenance and safety inspections,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said no one was sitting in the two places closest to the panel, but passengers claimed that a young boy sitting in line suddenly had his shirt ripped off, slightly injuring him.

The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, said it would bar some Boeing 737-9s from takeoff to check those planes as well. More than 170 of these jets are affected worldwide. Each of the inspections can last up to eight hours.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have the largest number of Boeing 737-9s, followed by Turkish Airlines, which has a much smaller fleet. All three of these airlines have already banned these planes from taking off for inspection.

‘It was nail-biting’

Aviation specialist John Ostrower says the panel in question that came loose is a door that Boeing “deactivates” or seals for some airlines before the planes are delivered.

The aircraft in question was certified as airworthy in October last year and was delivered new to Alaska Airlines.

Meanwhile, Boeing said that safety is its “top priority” and that it “regrets the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers”.

Since the incident, thousands of travelers have started canceling their already booked plane tickets.

Jennifer Homendy, chairman of the national transport safety council, says they are “very, very lucky” that the incident did not end in tragedy.

Those airlines affected

United Airlines, which has the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9s, said 46 of its planes were barred from takeoff and 33 had already been inspected without fault.

It was expected to cause 60 flight cancellations over the weekend.

Aeromexico said it was grounding all of its 737 Max 9 planes while inspections were carried out, and Turkish Airlines announced on Sunday that it would also suspend flights of five Max 9 planes for checks.

Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines said it was grounding 21 of its 737 Max 9s from flying, while Icelandair said none of its 737 Max 9s contained the aircraft configuration specified in the order banning takeoff.

Boeing has struggled in recent years with technical and quality control issues related to its 737 Max models.

In December, the US aerospace giant told airlines that Max planes should be inspected for loose hardware on aircraft rudder control systems after an international operator discovered a bolt with a missing nut while performing routine maintenance.

Boeing’s 737 Max planes have also been banned from flying worldwide in the past after two Max 8 accidents in 2018 and 2019 that claimed a total of 346 lives.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the planes’ return to service only after the company made changes to its flight control system.