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Alaska Airlines grounds its Boeing 737-9s after taking off from a window

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A window of this Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 detached from the cabin shortly after takeoff from the aircraft at Portland International Airport, Oregon, on Friday, January 5, 2024.


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After a porthole had detached from the cabin of an Alaska Airlines plane which had just taken off from the Portland airport, in Oregon, on the evening of Friday, January 5, the Federal Agency American Civil Aviation Authority (FAA) on Saturday ordered the immediate inspection of 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft suspended from flight until then.

The FAA directive requires operators [airlines] to inspect aircraft before a new flight, the agency said in a statement, saying it believes that this operation requires between four and eight hours by plane.

Alaska Airlines itself decided to ground its entire fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 9s, i.e. 65 aircraft, immediately after this incident, which revived concerns about the safety of the 737 MAX.

It has since indicated, on the social network said he has not found, at this stage, any element of concern.

According to data communicated by Boeing to AFP, 218 copies of the 737 MAX 9 have been delivered to date.

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United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have the largest fleets of these aircraft. Icelandair and Turkish Airlines also use them.

No casualties were reported among the 171 passengers and six crew members of Flight 1282 of Alaska Airlines, indicates a press release from the airline.

After the window detached and the crew reported a pressurization problem, the aircraft returned to its starting point for an emergency landing.

Even though this type of incident is rare, our flight attendants were trained and prepared to safely handle this situation, specifies the Alaska Airlines press release.

The MAX – which currently comes in three versions: the 8, 9 and 10, which differ primarily in size – is the latest version of Boeing's venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft frequently used for U.S. domestic flights.

More than a decade ago, Boeing considered designing and building an entirely new plane to replace the 737. However, fearing losing sales to European rival Airbus, which was marketing a more fuel-efficient version of its sized A320 similar, Boeing decided to take a shorter path to refine the 737, which resulted in the birth of the MAX.

According to several specialists who looking at this model, in particular the manager of the specialized site “The Air Current”, Jon Ostrower, it seems that the MAX has a door blocked and hidden by a partition which only reveals a porthole, which would be at the #x27;origin of the accident.

For his part, aeronautical specialist Xavier Tytelman also believes that this incident could reveal a design flaw in the device rather than a problem linked to maintenance.

Given that the plane was delivered just a month and a half ago to Alaska Airlines, we are certainly [dealing with] a design flaw. It is very likely that identical investigations will be carried out on all aircraft in this category [MAX 9] throughout the world and not just on Alaska Airlines aircraft, he explains.

In response to this incident, Canadian airlines have stated that there are no Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft in their fleet.

Canadian carriers such as Air Canada, WestJet, Flair Airlines and Lynx Air say they have 737 MAX 8s in their fleet, a model that does not have a mid-cabin exit door, unlike the MAX 9.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Air Canada says its 40 737 MAX 8 series aircraft would be very safe in flight.

On the WestJet side, spokesperson Julia Kaiser also confirms that the company's MAX 8s do not have the same configuration as the plane whose window exploded in flight. She adds that WestJet is in constant communication with Boeing to ensure that there will be no consequences for its MAX 8 fleet.

In March 2019, the federal Department of Transport ordered the immediate closure of Canadian airspace to the Boeing 737 MAX 8 following two air disasters that resulted in the deaths of 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The ban notice was lifted in January 2021.

According to the specialist site FlightAware, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 took off precisely at 5:07 p.m., heading to Ontario, California, before returning to the airport about twenty minutes later.

Images Broadcast on social media showed the window blown out with oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling of the aircraft.

A passenger on the flight, Kyle Rinker, explained to American television CNN that the window blew out just after takeoff.

It was really brutal. Barely at altitude, the front of the window simply came off and I only noticed it when the oxygen masks came down, he said.

Another passenger, Vi Nguyen, told the American daily The New York Times that she was awakened by a loud noise during the flight.

I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was the mask oxygen right in front of me. I looked to the left and the side panel was gone.

A quote from Vi Nguyen, passenger on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282

Vi Nguyen says she thought she was going to die.

L&#x27 The aircraft was certified in October, according to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registry, available online.

The manufacturer of the aircraft, the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing, wrote on the X network (formerly Twitter) that it was gathering more information and that a technical team was standing available to investigators. The National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and Alaska Airlines each said they were investigating the incident.

This is not the first time that Boeing's 737 MAX has been involved in accidents that call its safety into question.

While it entered service in 2017, two of these planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people.

Worldwide The 737 MAX planes were grounded for nearly two years while the company made changes to an automated flight control system that pushed the plane's nose down onto the base. of faulty sensor readings.

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An investigator walks among the debris of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, which crashed on March 10, 2019. This crash, the second of a Boeing 737 MAX in less than five months, had the effect of grounding all of these aircraft on the ground for two years. (File photo)

In late December, Boeing asked airlines that own 737 MAXs to carry out checks because of a risk loose bolt on rudder control system.

Separately, The Canadian Press reported today that Boeing has asked U.S. federal authorities to exempt a new 737 MAX model from a safety standard designed to prevent part of the engine housing from overheating and break during flight until 2026.

Boeing is working to address the hazard, U.S. federal officials said while asking pilots to limit the use of an anti-icing system in dry weather to avoid serious accidents. damage that could lead to loss of control of the plane.

Otherwise, the FAA warns, air intakes around the engines could become too hot and parts of the housing could come loose and strike the aircraft, possibly breaking windows and causing rapid decompression.

That's what happened when an engine fan blade broke on an older 737 during a Southwest Airlines flight in 2018. A piece of the loose engine housing hit and broke a window and a woman sitting next to the window was killed.

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Debris caused by the explosion of one of the engines on the left side of this aircraft shattered a porthole and damaged the fuselage. (File photo)

The overheating issue only affects the MAX model, which has carbon composite motor inlets rather than x27;metal.

Boeing needs this exemption to begin delivering the new, smaller MAX 7 to airlines.

However, some observers have sounded the alarm that safety rests with pilots, who must remember when to limit use of the anti-icing system.< /p>

You get our attention when you say people could be killed, Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for American Airlines pilots, told the Seattle Times, which reported the request. ;exemption Friday.

We are not interested in exemptions and accommodations which depend on human memory […]. There simply has to be a better way.

A quote from Dennis Tajer, American Airlines pilot spokesperson

Boeing , for its part, says it is working on a long-term solution that will undergo extensive testing and FAA review before being introduced into the 737 MAX fleet.

With information from Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and The Canadian Press< /em>

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