An NTSB official says the Alaska Airlines accident could have been “more tragic.”

An NTSB official says the Alaska Airlines accident could have been “more tragic.”

Tragedy may have been averted Friday night when a panel exploded from a Boeing plane while an Alaska Airlines flight was flying at 16,000 feet, an NTSB official said Saturday night.

Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a press conference on Saturday that the seats next to the explosion, which occurred when they were not occupied, and the height of the plane meant that passengers were likely sitting with seat belts in use. a night.

Homendy said that the headrests were separated from two nearby passenger seats, the back of one of the seats was also gone, and clothes remained in the area after the accident, which led to a decrease in cabin pressure and led to chaos.

Image of the missing painting. The mid-air accident forced an Alaska Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon, on Friday.Courtesy Kyle Rinker

“We’re very, very fortunate here that this didn’t end into something more tragic,” the NTSB chief said. “No one sat in 26A and 26B, where the door plug is.”

The flight was about 10 minutes from the departure airport, Portland International, when the board separated at 6:38 p.m. Friday with 171 passengers and six crew members on board.

Homendy said the passenger cabin underwent rapid pressure after the panel separated, leaving a large gap in the left side of the plane.

She added that for the people on board the plane, the incident must have been “really terrifying.”

Authorities said the 737 Max 9 was on its way to Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County, California, but returned to Portland and made an emergency landing.

Homendy said the flight was “only 10 minutes from the airport when the door exploded.”

Authorities are still searching for the door stopper, which they believe fell to the ground in the Cedar Hills area, about 7 miles west of central Portland.

The cabin underwent “rapid decompression”

Although no passengers were seriously injured, the president said that some of those on board were treated for minor injuries.

I imagined the accident could have been much worse if the flight had been at 35,000 feet, and people had been standing, walking, or using the bathroom.

“We could have ended up with something much more tragic,” Homendy said.

The chair said the explosion led to a “rapid decompression” in the cabin. The FAA says this can lead to hypoxia — oxygen starvation — which can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, and even permanent brain damage.

A video clip from on board the plane showed oxygen masks falling from the ceiling.

Homendy said the plane was at an altitude of 16,000 feet and quickly returned safely to ground level on Friday. Roughly 12,000 feet is the level at which passengers would be safe without supplemental oxygen, an FAA official told NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa, Florida, last year.

The NTSB is in charge of the investigation and will begin its first full day of investigation on Sunday, Homendy said. The president said she would avoid speculating on the cause until more was known.

Some 737 MAX 9 aircraft are grounded

Alaska Airlines said it operates 65 Boeing aircraft, and that it initially grounded all of them. It said on Saturday that it had inspected and certified 18 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

Alaska said Saturday evening that those planes would remain grounded after the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency airworthiness directive and ordered an estimated 171 of the planes to be grounded pending inspections with specific standards.

Alaska said in a statement that the 18 planes, which underwent “in-depth inspections as part of extensive maintenance checks,” will remain out of service until the airline’s inspections are completed under FAA guidance.

Alaska said the grounding prompted the airline to cancel 160 flights, affecting an estimated 23,000 passengers.

Temporary grounding is being felt throughout the industry.

United Airlines said on Saturday that it had 79 737 MAX 9 aircraft and had temporarily suspended service on all of them. The airline was working to transfer affected customers to other aircraft.

“We are working with the FAA to clarify the inspection process and requirements for returning all Max 9 aircraft to service,” the airline said in a statement.

What are delivery doors?

The delivery door is a panel partially sealed by air pressure.

It is used in place of an emergency exit that might be required depending on how the airline has configured the plane, specifically on passenger capacity, Homendy said.

She added that the plane used on Friday was equipped to transport 178 people, and therefore there was no need for additional emergency exits. For 215 passengers, these connecting doors should be converted into emergency exits, the Chairman said.

Travelers on a plane with a connecting door will usually see a window in place, even though from the outside it looks like a door.

The NTSB will examine the door seal on the other side of the plane, which is essentially a mirror image of the one that exploded, she said.

Investigators will look at how it was installed and structured as well as the plane’s air pressure system, among other factors, Homendy said.

The 737 Max 9 plane involved in Friday’s accident was brand new. Homendy said it was delivered to Alaska Airlines on November 11. Alaska said in its statement that it received the plane on October 31.

The president said it would be wise for the FAA to discontinue the model for now. “I’m very optimistic that the FAA took action,” she said.

The chairman said investigators hope to see more photos and videos of occupants from the time of the accident, and hope someone will find the door plug and report it to authorities.

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