Heartstopping audio footage captured the moment an Alaska Airlines pilot radioed for help after a window on her new Boeing 737 Max plane blew out shortly after take off.
‘Portland approach, Alaska 1282 emergency! Aircraft is now leveling 12,000 in a left turn heading three four zero,’ the unidentified woman could be heard saying after Friday evening’s drama over the skies of Portland in Oregon.
‘We need a divert. We’ve declared an emergency. We are depressurized. We have 177 passengers on board and a seal is…18,900’ the pilot can be heard explaining.
Alaska flight 1282, a Boeing 737-9 MAX bound for Ontario in California, left Portland just after 5pm local time on Friday when a deactivated emergency door used as a regular cabin window blew out at 16,000 feet. The controversial jet was carrying 171 passengers and six crew.
Its catastrophic failure depressurized the cabin, with the force of the air rushing in ripping the shirt off a young boy, whose mom was seen holding onto him. Passengers also watched as their phones were sucked out into the night sky.
Terrifying footage showed fliers looking out through the gaping hole of the fuselage onto the twinkling lights of Portland below in the eerily quiet cabin.
Miraculously, no injuries were reported on the plane, which had only gone into service in November 2023. Boeing, Alaska Airlines and the National Transportation Safety Board have all launched investigations.
Alaska flight 1282 left Portland just after 5pm local time on Friday when a window blew out at 16,000 feet, ripping a child’s shirt off
The Boeing 737-9 MAX rolled off the assembly line just two months ago, receiving its certification in November 2023, according to FAA record posted online
A photo shows the blown out window. It is offered as a door on the aircraft. Alaska chose not to take this option – although the frame of the prospective door was entirely ripped out by the fuselage failure
Passengers reported hearing a ‘really loud boom’ before a ‘deathly’ silence fell over the cabin as the plane made its emergency landing back in Portland around 40 minutes later.
A 20 year-old woman called Elizabeth told Oregon Live how ‘it sounded like your ears were popping like normally on a plane, but 10 times louder. I couldn’t believe it was real.’
‘We were all calm,’ she said of her fellow passenger, ‘but I did feel like I was about to cry, because who knows this could be my last few moments.’
Another passenger, Kyle Rinker, 29, said the plane became ‘deathly silent. Nobody made a noise.’
Reports suggest that 26A, the seat next to the blown-out window was not occupied.
Although a door is available for that row in the plane’s design Alaska chose not to exercise that option, having the doors deactivated by Boeing before delivery.
It therefore appears from the inside of the cabin like a regular window seat, although from the outside the frame of the deactivated door remains visible. The area of fuselage that was ripped out aligns perfectly with that door frame, suggesting a possible structural failure.
The emergency exit doors are designed to open inwardly and cannot be pushed outwards, according to Airline Reporter.
The National Safety Transport Board said it was investigating the event and will post any updates when they are available.
The Boeing 737-9 MAX rolled off the assembly line just two months ago, receiving its certification in November 2023, according to FAA record posted online.
Several passengers told KPTV that the airplane’s oxygen masks deployed immediately, and multiple people used the masks as they waited for the plane to land at PDX.
Another passenger told the outlet that a child had to be held in his seat by his mom.
Reports suggest that fortunately 26A, the seat next to what appears to have been an emergency exit with a window, was not occupied
Reports suggest that fortunately 26A, the seat next to what appears to have been an emergency exit with a window, was not occupied. Alaska did not take the option of an extra door in row 26, so it appears as a window from the inside – but the door frame remains visible on the exterior fuselage
Alaska Airlines posted on X that they were ‘aware of an incident’ aboard their flight AS1282 and said they would release more information as it becomes available. An identical plane is pictured
One passenger who filmed the drama said she woke up from a nap believing the plane had hit turbulence – only to discover a large hole in its fuselage
Passengers recalled how the depressurization ripped a child’s shirt off and sucked passengers phones out of the plane.
‘Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California, experienced an incident this evening soon after departure’ Alaska Airlines said in a statement late Friday night.
‘The aircraft landed safely back at Portland International Airport with 171 guests and 6 crew members’ it read.
‘The safety of our guests and employees is always our primary priority, so while this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.’
Adding: ‘We are investigating what happened and will share more information as it becomes available.’
In videos posted to social media passengers can be seen sitting calmly wearing oxygen masks as the plane returns to the runway.
Alaska Airlines rebooked passengers on an 11 pm flight out of PDX, according to traveler Diego Murillo, who told KPTV the airline had not yet told him anything about the incident.
The Alaska plane returned to Portland Airport less than an hour after takeoff
Alaska Airlines rebooked passengers on an 11 pm flight out of PDX
In videos posted to social media passengers can be seen sitting calmly wearing oxygen masks as the plane returns to the runway
Wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-MAX plane is seen on March 11, 2019
A Lion Air Boeing 737-MAX crashed in Badung Bali in 2013 after it overshot the runway at Bali Ngurah Rai Airport
‘We are aware of the incident involving Alaska Airlines Flight #AS1282. We are working to gather more information and are in contact with our airline customer’ Boeing said in a statement on Friday night.
Adding: ‘A Boeing technical team stands ready to support the investigation.’
Boeing unveiled their 737 Max in 2015, and since its Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval in 2017 has become one of the most widely used aircraft in the world.
A year later it had its first crash: in October 2018 a 737 Max operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed shortly after take off, killing all 189 on board.
Five months later, in March 2019, a second 737 Max – this one operated by Ethiopian Airlines – crashed again shortly after take off, killing all 157 on board.
Three days later the planes were grounded by the FAA.
It later emerged that Boeing staff, in internal messages, were cavalier about FAA regulations and critical of the Max’s design.
One said it the aircraft was ‘designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.’
The 737 design dates back to the 1960s and Boeing was criticized for adding large engines to an old airframe instead of using a ‘clean sheet design’.
Faults were discovered in the aircraft’s MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System: the MCAS was found in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes to have erroneously pointed the nose down towards the ground, and the pilots were unable to override it.
In 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion in fines in a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to settle charges the company hid critical information about the Max from regulators and the public.
Boeing spent billions overhauling the systems and the planes returned to global skies in the fall of 2020, after being grounded for 20 months — the longest such action in aviation history.