B-737 plane loses door in flight (2): what happened
The downside at 16,000 feet: it could have been worse
A Boeing B-737 MAX 9 aircraft (registration N704AL) of the US carrier Alaska Airlines (flight AS1282) suffered one of the emergency doors ("plug door"), located in the rear part of the fuselage, immediately after take-off from an American airport. The pilot thus reversed course and made an emergency landing at the departure airport in Portland. All except the 171 passengers and six crewmembers. Injuries reported.
According to an initial reconstruction of the incident, the aircraft left at 4:52pm (1:52am on Saturday night in Italy) from Portland international airport, in the State of Oregon, with destination Los Angeles, in California, where it was due to land about two hours later. Instead, around 5:07pm, when the aircraft had reached 16,000 feet, the commander of the B-737 Max 9 asked the control tower to reverse course due to the decompression caused by the detachment of the plug door from the fuselage.
"We would like to descend. This is an emergency. We need to reach an altitude of 10,000 feet" (4876 meters), the pilot more or less communicated to air traffic control, according to a recording published on the "Liveatc.net" web portal. The plane, with 177 people on board, landed at Portland airport about 20 minutes after the alarm, at 5:27pm. The president of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jennifer Homendy, urged residents of the Portland suburb of Cedar Hills to come forward if they found pieces of the tailgate, which according to speculation could be in that area.
The testimonies on board are dramatic. "We heard an initial bang. Then the plane shuddered. A cloud passed by me and hit me in the face. People's hair was flying everywhere. There were people very close to the hole who lost earbuds from their ears. A boy's shirt was ripped off his body", said Nick Hoch, a 33-year-old passenger, interviewed by the American television station "CNN".
It could have been much worse. In fact, the incident occurred immediately after take-off, when the passengers were still wearing their seat belts. Furthermore, according to what we learn, there was no passenger sitting in seat 26A, the one closest to the detached tailgate. While in 26B and 26C there was a mother with her child. A flight attendant and some passengers suffered "minor injuries", according to the newspaper "The Oregonian".
On the same topic, see also the article published by AVIONEWS.
AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency