Plane That Lost Door Plug Had Previous Issues

Alaska Airlines restricted its use over water because of pressurization warnings
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2024 6:34 AM CST
Missing Piece of Boeing Jet Found in Backyard
This photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board shows a gaping hole in the Alaska Airlines jet, a Boeing Max 9.   (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

The missing piece of a Boeing 737 Max 9 passenger jet has turned up in a backyard near Portland, Oregon. Sunday's discovery of the large piece, called a door plug, should help investigators better understand the stunning incident on Friday in which it blew off mid-flight, endangering an Alaska Airlines jet and its 177 passengers and crew. The jet was able to turn around and land safely at Portland International Airport without injuries.

  • Previous issue: The same plane had been barred from flights over water because a pressurization warning light had come on without explanation on three previous flights, reports the New York Times. Alaska Airlines had not yet figured out why the light kept coming on before Friday's flight, said National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy. It's not yet clear if this had anything to do with Friday's incident.

  • Lucky: The piece blew off about six minutes into the flight from Portland to Ontario, California, per the AP, when the jet was at about 16,000 feet. Had it happened after the plane reached cruising altitude, the results could have been catastrophic. As it was, passengers were exposed to howling winds. The force of decompression damaged nearby seats (nobody was sitting in the immediate vicinity) and caused the cockpit door to fly open. One of the pilots lost a headset.
  • The piece: Door plugs, about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, are used to plug unneeded exits when planes are configured to have fewer than the maximum number of seats, explains the New York Times. A schoolteacher near Portland discovered the door plug in his yard.
  • Grounded: Alaska Airlines and United are the only US airlines that fly Boeing Max 9s, and all have been grounded until inspections can be conducted. United canceled nearly 270 flights over the weekend, and cancellations were continuing into Monday, with about 20% of United's flights affected. (Alaska Airlines began to return some Max 9s to service, but backtracked.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.