Aviation officials are investigating why a part of the door, resembling the size of a door latch of Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737 Max 9 jet, broke six minutes after taking off from Portland, Oregon. Due to the failure, the aircraft experienced significantly reduced pressure, leading to an emergency landing on Friday.
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No serious injuries were reported among the 177 passengers and crew on Alaska Airlines’ flight 1282, which was at an altitude of 16,300 feet when the unit gave way. The aircraft safely landed in Portland.
The National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies are conducting an investigation. An essential piece of evidence, a torn part known as the “door plug,” was discovered near Portland on Sunday by a school teacher. Investigators will examine the 63-pound, 48-by-26-inch plug to determine why it detached from the aircraft.
Two cell phones were found nearby, believed to be from the plane. Officials are also examining the auto pressurization warning light, which had been illuminated in the last three flights on December 7, January 3, and January 4, to see if it played any role in the incident. Alaska Airlines banned the jet from flying to quickly address the warning light issue.
What happened on the flight?
Flight number 1282 departed from Portland International Airport for Ontario, California, around 5:07 PM local time on Friday. Approximately six minutes after takeoff, passengers heard an explosion when a part of the door ruptured.
Later, passengers described chaotic and violent scenes of rapid air movement, as the cockpit door opened, and the headset was detached from the co-pilot. The flight crew and passengers donned oxygen masks.
The FAA halted more than 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets for inspection after the incident. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are the main operators of the MAX 9 in the U.S.
What is the door plug of the aircraft?
Boeing uses the unused emergency exit plug to cover the emergency exit on most of its 737 MAX 9 jets. The door plug is visible from the outside but looks like a regular partition and window from the inside.
Boeing has incorporated the emergency exit feature behind the wings of its aircraft. According to federal law, planes with more than 90 seconds for evacuating all passengers must be equipped with additional emergency exits, even if these exits are obstructed. Aircraft with fewer seats can use a door plug. This option has been an industry standard for years.
Flight 1282 has 189 seats, with 171 passengers and 6 crew members on board. 4 bolts secure the door plug in place. The plug is attached at the bottom and can be opened from the outside at an angle of about 15 degree.