AI image of a plane flying over Portland, OR with a door gone

The Story Behind the Terrifying Boeing 737 Max 9 Incident

On January 5, 2024, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 departed from Portland, Oregon for Ontario, California. Unfortunately, passengers experienced every air traveler’s worst nightmare shortly after taking off.

The results of the incident caused the immediate grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. However, this isn’t the first time that a Boeing plane has been the subject of controversy.

Today, we’re sharing everything you need about this frightful experience.

Boeing 737 Max 9 Loses Door Plug

Approximately 20 minutes after leaving Portland, Flight 1282 cruised roughly 16,000 feet. Unexpectedly, the door plug on the aircraft came loose and created a large hole in the side of the plane. A door plug is used to seal up unused exits on the aircraft.

As you might expect, this created a chaotic situation for everyone onboard.

A change in cabin pressure not only caused oxygen masks to deploy but also sucked lightweight items out of the hole.

Numerous people reportedly lost cell phones, headphones, and clothing. No serious physical injuries were sustained during the incident.

However, many of these passengers will likely have a hard time flying in the future.

The pilot communicated the situation over the radio and immediately turned around to head back to Portland. After making an emergency landing, federal authorities grounded all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. 

This Isn’t the First Issue for Boeing

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first serious issue for the Boeing 737 Max aircraft line.

While the passengers on Flight 1282 safely escaped the terrifying situation, other flights weren’t so lucky.

Two incidents in 2018 and 2019 led to the downing of the planes and major investigations into the safety and reliability of the aircraft.

In total, 346 lives were lost in two separate Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes in five months. The first was Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and the second was Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019. However, these flights experienced a similar issue, but it wasn’t related to the door plug.

It was later revealed that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was the cause of the incident. This complex system is the automated flight control system for the aircraft.

However, an investigation revealed the plane was missing two key safety features that would have likely prevented the two tragedies.

The Boeing 737 Max 9 Returns to the Skies

It took roughly a week to complete inspections on all of the Boeing 737 Max 9 in operation. Four missing bolts from the factor were identified as the source of the problem.

While Boeing claims to have addressed the issue, the situation generates some concerns. If their quality control missed something so major, what else could they have missed?

Ed Pierson, a former senior manager for Boeing, told the LA Times he would “absolutely not fly on a Max airplane.”  He said, “I’ve worked in the factory where they were built, and I saw the pressure employees were under to rush the planes out the door. I tried to get them to shut down before the first crash.”

Numerous other former Boeing employees are speaking out against the major airline manufacturer. They insist that the planes aren’t as safe as Boeing claims and encourage their friends, family, and anyone they can to avoid boarding them.

Other Planes with Terrifying Stories

The Boeing 737 Max 9 incident is the most recent issue experienced with a commercial airliner. However, it’s certainly not the first. Here are a few other incidents that caused the grounding of commercial aircraft.

Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 is a superjumbo jet and can easily hold more than 500 passengers.

On November 4, 2010, one of these massive aircraft experienced a severe issue. An oil leak caused one of the four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines to blow apart.

Luckily, the 469 crew and passengers on board the plane landed safely without injury.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Another terrifying airline encounter took place on a Boeing 787 in January 2013. Luckily for the 183 passengers and 11 crew, it didn’t occur until after the flight landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

The cleaning crew noticed smoke and began investigating the situation. They found flames coming from the electrical equipment bay of the plane and called for help.

It was later discovered that the cause of the fire was related to the plane’s lithium-ion batteries. They experienced the phenomenon known as thermal runaway, which results from a failing cell in the battery. The failed cell causes surrounding cells also to fail, which generates heat and can lead to a fire.

Luckily, the airline quickly addressed the issue. Additionally, lithium-ion battery technology has advanced considerably. While these issues were common several years ago, they are much less prevalent today with the current battery management technology. Lithium batteries are still not allowed in your checked luggage though.

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 

The final terrifying issue on our list occurred on a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on May 25, 1979. American Airlines Flight 191 was leaving O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. The left engine separated from the plane during takeoff and caused many issues for the aircraft.

Sadly, the results made it impossible for the plane to stay in the air or for the pilot to maintain control. Less than a mile from the runway, the aircraft experienced a catastrophic crash. It instantly took the lives of the 271 passengers and crew on board and two more individuals on the ground.

After an investigation, it was discovered that the crash resulted from improper maintenance. The FAA fined American Airlines $600,000. In addition, any airlines using the DC-10 were required to inspect their aircraft and follow the maintenance recommended by the manufacturer.

The Friendly Skies Don’t Seem So Friendly

While it might sound like the friendly skies are a disaster waiting to happen, they’re not. Flying is incredibly safe, and the odds of experiencing these situations are extremely low. Don’t let the fear of experiencing one of these situations stop you from adventuring and exploring the world. The friendly skies may not seem friendly, but they are generally well-behaved.

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