Alaska Airlines placed restrictions on the Boeing 737 Max 9, that lost part of its fuselage in flight on Friday, preventing it from long-haul overwater flights, because of air pressure warnings several days before Friday’s incident, said the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), on Monday, the 8th of January, reports the BBC.
The part of the fuselage that broke off is a 27 kg piece of fuselage with a window, a middle exit door plug that can be used as an emergency exit in certain situations.
After the fuselage broke off, the aircraft returned to its departure city of Portland and made a safe emergency landing. The aircraft was carrying 177 passengers and crew without any casualties.
Flash:#AlaskaAirlines temporarily grounded its entire fleet of #Boeing 737-9 aircraft. The decision came after one of the planes experienced mid-air emergency on Friday (local time) when an exit door detached from aircraft, leading to an urgent landing in #Portland.
Soon after… pic.twitter.com/8VVdBPExkS
— Yuvraj Singh Mann (@yuvnique) January 6, 2024
At a press conference, NTSB chief Jennifer Homendy said that pilots had reported pressure warnings on three previous flights by the Boeing in question and added that the decision to limit long over-water flights was made to “allow the aircraft to return to the airport quickly” in case the warnings recurred.
It is not yet clear whether the warnings are related to the 5th of January incident,
as the aircraft was brand new, delivered to Alaska Airlines in October, when it was declared airworthy by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Homendy said that the key missing piece – fuselage – needed for further investigation had been found in a Portland teacher’s garden.
The NTSB chief described the situation on board Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 as “very chaotic” and “frightening”, adding that no information was available from the cockpit voice recorder because the recording was automatically erased after the two-hour limit was reached.
The dramatic explosion of the Alaska Airlines plane occurred at an altitude of 4.8 km, resulting in a large hole in the side of the plane, described by witnesses as as wide as a refrigerator, and a young boy said that the force of the decompression tore his shirt.
The FAA has grounded approximately 171 aircraft of the same type as safety inspections continue.
The European Union’s aviation regulator, following the lead of the FAA, has decided to suspend Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft following the incident in the US. The disruption is expected to be minimal as European airlines are not believed to be using Max 9 aircraft with the configuration mentioned in the FAA order, as reported by the BBC.
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