US regulator grounds 171 Boeing planes after window ripped open mid-air after takeoff

Alaska Airlines said it was working with Boeing to understand what took place on the flight, ITV News' Sam Holder reports

Thousands of customers have had their flights cancelled after US officials ordered the immediate grounding of Boeing 737-9 Max jetliners after an Alaska Airlines plane suffered a blowout that left a gaping hole in the side of the fuselage.

The airline said 160 flights - affecting roughly 23,000 customers - were halted as of Saturday afternoon, and more cancellations could be in store for Sunday.

Each jet will require an inspection that will take around four to eight hours and will affect about 171 airplanes worldwide.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Boeing Commercial Airplanes said they "deeply regret" the incident and are supporting an investigation into what happened.

The 1282 flight, which was headed from Portland to Ontario, California, on Friday, returned safely to Portland International Airport around 5pm PT (1am GMT) “the crew reported a pressurization issue,” the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A panel of the fuselage, including the panel’s window, popped off shortly after takeoff, Kyle Rinker, a passenger on the flight, told CNN.

“It was really abrupt. Just got to altitude, and the window/wall just popped off and didn’t notice it until the oxygen masks came off,” Rinker said.

The plane “landed safely back at Portland International Airport with 171 guests and six crew members,” the airline said.

Firefighters were called to assess minor injuries after the landing, and no serious injuries were reported, the Port of Portland Fire Department said.

A passenger’s video posted to social media shows a side section of the fuselage, where a window would have been, missing – exposing passengers to the outside air.

The video, which appears to have been taken from several rows behind the incident, shows oxygen masks deployed throughout the airplane, and least two people sitting near and just behind the missing section.

Passenger Evan Smith said a boy and his mother were sitting in the row where the window blew out and the child’s shirt was sucked off him and out of the plane.

In a statement, Alaska Airlines said it was working with Boeing to understand what took place on Flight 1282. 

The aircraft is a 737 Max 9 that received its certificate of airworthiness on October 25, 2023, according to the FAA.

The airline’s grounded fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft is expected to undergo full maintenance and safety inspections over the next several days before being returned to service, the airline said.

“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced,” Alaska Airlines CEO, Ben Minicucci said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday evening that they are requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight and that 171 aircrafts have been grounded worldwide.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, the FAA said: "The FAA will order the temporary grounding of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by US airlines or in US territory.

"The Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) that will be issued shortly will require operators to inspect aircraft before further flight that do not meet the inspection cycles specified in the EAD.

"The required inspections will take around four to eight hours per aircraft. The EAD will affect approximately 171 airplanes worldwide."

A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson told ITV News: "There are no UK registered 737 MAX - 9 and therefore the impact on UK operated aircraft and consumers is minimal.

"We have written to all non-UK and foreign permit carriers to ask for confirmation that inspections have been undertaken prior to any operation into UK airspace."

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