In yet another twist to what has been a wild week of travel in the United States following the holiday…
Explosive Decompression Reported on Alaska 737 MAX
The 737 MAX returned safely; no injuries reported as of yet
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 was forced to divert on Friday night after one of its windows blew out mid-flight. The aircraft, operating as Alaska 1282, had just departed from Portland, Oregon bound for Ontario, California when the indecent occurred.
Passengers onboard the aircraft report that a child’s shirt was ripped off when the incident occurred, though it is unclear at the time of writing if anyone was injured during the incident. A hole was found in the ceiling of the aircraft.
The aircraft involved was registered as N704AL. It is a two-month-old jet that received its certification in November 2023. It reached an altitude of 16,000 feet before returning to Portland.
An anonymous passenger took the following picture of the window after it blew out.
This type of decompression is likely to be characterized as an “explosive” decompression. This means that, when the window blew out, the aircraft’s cabin lost pressure at a rate faster than the rate lungs can decompress. This type of decompression has the highest potential for lung damage, as compared to rapid or gradual decompressions.
Aircraft cabins are pressurized to altitudes of up to 8,000’, meaning that the human body feels like it would on an 8,000 foot peak. However, considering that this jet was lower than a normal cruising altitude, it is likely that the cabin had not yet reached an 8,000 foot altitude. With a what might have been a greater cabin pressure differential – difference between cabin air and outside air – damage to aircraft systems as well as the impact on the human body will be greater.
This incident is reminiscent of Southwest Airlines flight 1380, when an uncontained engine failure caused damage to an aircraft’s window. That failure caused the death of the passenger next to the window. However, at the time of writing, there are no reports of death on this Alaska Airlines plane. The seat next to the window that failed was unoccupied, and the seat was damaged.
It is also currently unclear what caused this failure. Any number of factors could cause a decompression of this nature. An investigation will almost surely commence, both because the 737 is such a common aircraft type in the US and because this particular aircraft just rolled off the production plant.
This incident comes just days after Boeing encouraged 737 MAX operators to perform close inspections for loose bolts on 737 MAX aircraft.
This is a developing story, and new details will continue to emerge.
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