Alaska Airlines Grounds Boeing 737 Max 9 After Midair Emergency Landing

PORTLAND, Oregon – All 174 passengers and six crew members aboard an Alaska Airlines flight are safe after a window and part of the fuselage blew out midair, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered the temporary grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners for inspection following the incident. This order impacts 171 airplanes worldwide, with required inspections taking approximately four to eight hours per aircraft.

Alaska Airlines confirmed that Flight 1282, bound for Ontario, California, had a window and fuselage blowout shortly after takeoff, causing the cabin to depressurize. The flight returned to Portland International Airport after climbing to 16,000 feet. CEO Ben Minicucci announced that the airline has temporarily grounded its fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft as a precaution.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA will be investigating the cause of the incident, but the airline has stated that inspections on more than a quarter of the fleet have shown no concerning findings. The new Boeing 737 Max 9 involved in the incident was delivered in late October to Alaska Airlines and certified in early November, according to FAA data.

Boeing, the U.S. aircraft manufacturer, has expressed its awareness of the emergency landing and its willingness to support the investigation. The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s 737 and went into service in May 2017, but all Boeing 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide for nearly two years after two fatal crashes. These aircraft were cleared to fly again after Boeing overhauled an automated flight-control system that activated erroneously in both crashes.

The FAA continues to carefully monitor the Max jets using satellite data. The agency is currently awaiting certification of Boeing’s smaller 737 Max-7 and larger Max-10 jets.