PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Boeing jetliner that suffered a mid-flight blowout over Oregon was not being used for flights to Hawaii after a warning light that could have indicated a pressurization problem came on on three different flights.
Alaska Airlines decided to ban the plane from long flights over water so that the plane “could return to an airport very quickly” if the warning light reappeared, Jennifer Homendy, president, said Sunday. of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Shares of Boeing Co. fell 9% at the open Monday, the first day of trading since the incident. Shares of Alaska Airlines fell 4% and Spirit AeroSystems, which builds the fuselage for Boeing’s 737 Max, plunged 14%.
Homendy warned that the pressurization light may have nothing to do with Friday’s incident in which a plug covering an unused exit door exploded the Boeing 737 Max 9 as it was cruising about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) above Oregon.
The light came on during three previous flights: December 7, January 3 and January 4 – the day before the door plug ruptured. Homendy said she did not have all the details about the Dec. 7 incident, but said the light came on during a flight Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 after the plane landed. plane. Alaska ordered additional maintenance work to examine the light, but it was not completed before Friday’s incident, she added.
“We plan to look into this further and have requested documentation of all defects since the aircraft was delivered on October 31,” she said.
The NTSB said the lost door stopper was found Sunday near Portland, Oregon, in the yard of a home. Investigators will examine the cork, which measures 26 inches by 48 inches (66 centimeters by 121 centimeters) and weighs 63 pounds (28.5 kilograms), for signs of how it broke free.
Investigators will not have the benefit of hearing what happened in the cockpit during the flight. The cockpit voice recorder – one of two black boxes – recorded the sounds of the flight after two hours, Homendy said.
At a press conference Sunday evening, Homendy provided new details about the chaotic scene that unfolded on the plane. The explosive air damaged several rows of seats and tore insulation from the walls. The cockpit door opened and hit the lavatory door.
The force tore off the co-pilot’s helmet and the captain lost part of his helmet. A quick reference checklist kept handy for pilots flew out of the open cockpit, Homendy said.
Two mobile phones that appeared to belong to passengers on Friday’s terrifying flight were found on the ground. One was discovered in a courtyard, the other on the side of a road. Both were turned over to the NTSB.
The plane returned to Portland, however, and none of the 171 passengers and six crew members were seriously injured.
Hours after the incident, the FAA ordered 171 of the 218 Max 9s in service, including all those used by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, to be grounded until they could be inspected. The airlines were still awaiting details on Sunday on how to conduct the inspections, but cancellations of flights involving Max 9 planes at both airlines began.
As of Monday morning, Alaska Airlines was forced to cancel 20% of all flights, or 141 in total. United canceled 221 flights, or 8% of its total flights scheduled Monday.
Alaska Airlines, which has 65 Max 9s, and United, with 79, are the only U.S. airlines to operate this particular model of Boeing’s 737 workhorse.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun requested a company-wide webcast Tuesday to discuss the incident with employees and senior management.
“When serious accidents like this occur, it is essential for us to work transparently with our customers and regulators to understand and address the causes of the event, and ensure they do not happen again,” Calhoun wrote in a message to employees Sunday. . “This is and must be our team’s priority right now.”
Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 departed Portland at 5:07 p.m. Friday for a two-hour trip to Ontario, California. About six minutes later, the piece of fuselage exploded as the plane climbed to about 16,000 feet (4.8 kilometers).
One of the pilots declared an emergency and requested permission to descend to 10,000 feet (3 kilometers), where the air would be rich enough for passengers to breathe without oxygen masks.
Videos posted online by passengers showed a gaping hole where the paneled door used to be. They cheered when the plane landed safely, about 13 minutes after the eruption. Firefighters came down the aisle, asking passengers to remain seated while they treated the injured.
It is extremely fortunate that the plane had not yet reached cruising altitude, while passengers and flight attendants could walk around the cabin, Homendy said.
The plane involved rolled off the assembly line and received certification two months ago, according to online FAA records. It has made 145 flights since entering commercial service on November 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the plane’s third of the day.
The Max is the latest version of Boeing’s venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft frequently used on U.S. domestic flights. The aircraft entered service in May 2017.
Two Max 8 planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. All Max 8 and Max 9 planes were grounded worldwide for nearly two years until Boeing made changes to an automated flight control system implicated in the crashes.
The Max has been plagued by other problems, including manufacturing defects, concerns about overheating that led the FAA to ask pilots to limit the use of an anti-icing system, and a possible loose bolt in the rudder system.