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Boeing faces questions after plane suffers a gaping hole in its side mid-flight

Boeing faces questions after plane suffers a gaping hole in its side mid-flight

An Alaska Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing due to part of the plane blowing off.

US aviation officials have ordered the immediate grounding of Boeing 737-9 Max jetliners after a terrifying incident where part of an Alaska Airlines plane blew off during a flight.

The jetliner blew out a window and a portion of its fuselage shortly after take-off three miles above Oregon on its way to California last Friday, creating a gaping hole that forced pilots to make an emergency landing.

It looks to have been caused by a plug covering an unused exit door coming off - the lost plug was found two days later in the back garden of a home.

The saga was depicted in a viral TikTok video from @strawberr.vy, who posted: 'Girls’ trip turned into emergency landing trip.'

The video starts by showing a hole in the side of the plane, with the caption: 'A part of the plane flew off not even 20min into our flight??'

The TikToker is seen holding an oxygen mask over her face, and then details how the plane 'flew back for an emergency landing'.

It's pretty terrifying stuff, but she continued: 'Everyone on the plane is okay. Luckily there was no one seated next to the window.'

The depressurized plane returned safely to Portland International Airport about 20 minutes after it departed.

The viral post has clocked up 3.3 million likes on TikTok, but it's not just people on social media who are taking notice - the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the immediate grounding of Boeing 737-9 Max jetliners, and the National Transportation Safety Board said it will also investigate.

The terrifying TikTok showed a hole in the side of the plane.

The required FAA inspections will take around four to eight hours per aircraft and will affect about 171 planes worldwide.

Alaska Airlines chief executive Ben Minicucci said the inspection of the company 737-9 fleet aircraft could take days to complete. They make up a fifth of the company’s 314 planes.

He said: “We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred … and will share updates as more information is available.

“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced.”

However, on Monday the FAA approved guidelines for inspecting the door plugs on other Max 9 jets and repairing them, if necessary. This could speed up the process of these planes returning to service.

The aircraft involved rolled off the assembly line and received its certification just two months ago, according to online FAA records.

It had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service on November 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the aircraft’s third of the day.

It then emerged that the Boeing jetliner was not being used for journeys to Hawaii after a warning light that could have indicated a pressurization problem lit up on three different flights, a US official said.

Boeing 737-9 Max jetliners have been grounded until investigations can wrap up.
Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / Stringer / Getty

Alaska Airlines decided to restrict the aircraft from long flights over water so that the plane “could return very quickly to an airport” if the warning light reappeared, said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Homendy said that the pressurization light might be unrelated to Friday’s incident.

The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle plane frequently used on US domestic flights. The plane went into service in May 2017.

“When serious accidents like this occur, it is critical for us to work transparently with our customers and regulators to understand and address the causes of the event, and to ensure they don’t happen again,” Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun wrote in a message to employees on Sunday.

“This is and must be the focus of our team right now.”

Featured Image Credit: strawberry.vy/Tiktok