Alaska Airlines grounds Boeing 737 Max 9 fleet after mid-air window explosion | Aviation news

All 174 passengers and six crew are safe after the incident that occurred shortly after takeoff from Portland, an emergency forced landing.

Alaska Airlines has said it will ground its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after a window and a piece of fuselage exploded in midair, forcing an emergency landing in Portland, in the US state of Oregon.

The incident took place shortly after takeoff on Friday and the gaping hole caused the cabin to depressurize. Flight data showed that the plane climbed to 16,000 feet (4,876 meters) before returning to Portland International Airport.

The airline said Flight 1282, which was headed to Ontario, California, landed safely with 174 passengers and six crew members.

CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement that the airline had “decided to take the precautionary measure of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft.”

Each plane will return to service after full maintenance and safety inspections, which Minicucci said the airline anticipated completing within days.

Alaska Airlines has not provided further information about the possible cause, but the US National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have said they will investigate the incident.

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.

US planemaker Boeing said it was aware of the emergency landing, was working to gather more information and was ready to support the investigation.

The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s 737 and entered service in May 2017.

All Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded worldwide for nearly two years after two crashes: the first in Indonesia in October 2018 killed 189 people, and the second plane crashed five months later in Ethiopia, killing 157. people.

The plane was cleared to fly again after Boeing reviewed an automated flight control system that was mistakenly activated in both crashes.

Boeing is awaiting certification of its smaller 737 Max-7 and larger Max-10 planes.

The FAA has carefully vetted the Max for years. In 2021, it said it was tracking all 737 Max aircraft using satellite data.

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