Alaska Flight 1282 Update: Flight Cancellations Increase

Cancellations are piling up as carriers await word from officials and from Boeing on the immediate future of the Boeing 737 9 MAX aircraft, the plane that was involved in January 5 Alaska Airlines incident.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was scheduled to travel from Portland International Airport (PDX) on Friday night to Ontario International Airport (ONT) in California. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing back at Portland International after a piece of fuselage on the side of the plane blew out, taking one of the passenger side windows with it, and rapidly decompressing the cabin. 

Word came down from the FAA on Saturday that all Boeing MAX 9 aircraft would be grounded until airlines undertake specific inspections.

According to the Associated Press, both Alaska and United, the two North American carriers that fly the Max 9, are waiting for Boeing to issue a technical bulletin to the FAA before starting their inspections. That’s keeping a significant portion of their fleets (Alaska has 65 Max 9 planes and United has 79) out of service and was forcing cancellations for their passengers over the weekend.

Alaska said it canceled more than 200 flights—170 on January 7th and another 60 on January 8th—after the groundings—and United did the same for more than 230 flights Sunday into Monday. Those cancellations are expected to continue through the start of the week. Alaska’s cancellations alone will impact 23,000 guests.

Alaska said it would contact impacted guests and that those scheduled to fly should check the Alaska Airlines website for more updates.

The timeline for the inspections remains unclear. Alaska had said on Saturday that it expected checks to be completed “in the next few days” but that timely is likely too optimistic for the FAA, which said that the planes “will remain grounded until the FAA is satisfied that they are safe.”

Some Debris found
Some of the debris from Friday’s incident was found near Portland, including the plug that covered the unused exit door. The plug door, which was the main culprit in Friday’s incident, was found in the backyard of a schoolteacher near Portland and has been retrieved in order to help with the investigation.

According to Alaska, the plug door is a “specific panel of fuselage near the rear of the aircraft” and was delivered to the carrier at the end of October 2023.

What won’t aid in the investigation is the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, which were sent to NTSB labs over the weekend. According to the NTSB, the voice recorder was overwritten, which is typical procedure and needs to be retrieved within hours of incidents in order to stop the overwriting.

Also found around Portland were items from guests onboard, including a pair of iPhones that were both in working condition after falling more than 16,000 feet.

Boeing ‘regrets’ the incident’s impact
Boeing issued its own media statement over the weekend, writing that it would fully support the NTSB’s investigation. The company, which previously had major issues with other MAX aircraft, said it “deeply regrets” the impact the incident had on its airline customers and its passengers.

“Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers. We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane. In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB’s investigation into the Jan. 5 accident. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers,” it said.

All passengers medically cleared
All passengers onboard Flight 1282 have been medically cleared, according to Alaska. Several guests needed medical attention once the plane touched down in Portland.

Details of the incident, revealed over the last couple of days, paint a panicked picture of what happened onboard. According to Homendy, once the fuselage blew out, air rushing into the plane damaged seats and pulled insulation from the walls.

The cockpit door was also pulled off, banging into the plane’s lavatory door. The co-pilot’s headset, and part of the captain’s headset, were ripped off with the door open.

Update: January 25, 2024 – FAA Gives Green Light for Boeing 737 MAX 9 to Fly Again.