Alaska Airlines window blowout: ‘A boom, a whoosh, white vapour rushed through the plane’

US orders 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes grounded after an Alaska Airlines flight suffers a window blowout shortly after takeoff

Nicholas Hoch was relaxing with a podcast onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 as it left Portland, Oregon, on Friday night. A few minutes later he was texting his mother and girlfriend to say he loved them and wondering whether he would die.

Hoch said he knew something was seriously wrong when the plane lights flickered shortly after takeoff, and a rush of air ripped off his hat. He would later learn the whoosh of wind also tore out some passengers’ earbuds and even ripped the shirt off a teenager’s back.

A blast reverberated through the plane after a fuselage section blew out shortly after takeoff, leaving a gaping hole. All 171 passengers and six crew on the Boeing 737 Max escaped unscathed but, for a moment, Hoch said it felt as though he might die. “I started to text my loved ones,” he said.

A “mini boom or mini explosion” rattled and shook the plane, and then there was an instantaneous depressurisation of the cabin, said Hoch, a 33-year-old Portland-based architect. “This white vapour or cloud just rushed through the plane.”


Most of the passengers managed to stay calm, though a few became agitated, including a man travelling with two small children who “stood up and started to freak out,” Hoch said, speaking by phone. “I think we were just all super confused, concerned, terrified, really.”

Hoch said he was able to get his oxygen mask on quickly. “I think I was almost, in some ways, hyperventilating. There was a few moments where it was hard to catch my breath,” he said.

The pilots didn’t make any announcements, leaving Hoch and others unsure if they were about to crash. “The captain never came on the microphone until we actually landed,” he said. “That was part of the thing that made this more terrifying and intense.”

The plane landed 21 minutes after takeoff and was in the air for six minutes when it reached its maximum altitude, according to FlightRadar24.

Passengers were able to exit the aircraft normally via the jet bridge. “I thanked the pilot and shook his hand,” he said. “I can’t thank that guy enough.”

Hoch said he boarded another Alaska flight to Ontario, California, a few hours after his ordeal. “I didn’t feel great about getting on a plane, honestly, but I have some work and travel ahead of me.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding and inspections of some Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, a day after a fuselage section on a brand-new Alaska Airlines jet blew out shortly after takeoff, leaving a gaping hole.

The move affects about 171 planes worldwide, according to a statement by the FAA. Alaska, the world’s second biggest operator of the type, had already grounded its Max 9 fleet in the wake of Friday’s incident after takeoff from Portland, Oregon.

United Airlines Holdings, the model’s top operator, also took some of the jets out of service for inspections.

“Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a post on X.

Flight 1282 was carrying 171 passengers and six crew from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California on January 5th when the crew reported a pressurisation issue.

What followed was a rear left part of the fuselage blowing out, leaving the hole resembling the opening for a door. The aircraft returned to Portland about 20 minutes after takeoff, having reached an altitude of about 4,800m (16,000ft).

Inside the aircraft, which was delivered to Alaska Airlines only in October, part of the cabin wall had also torn off, exposing insulation material, images on social media showed.

Video footage showed the aircraft landing in Portland in darkness, with passengers seated close to the gaping hole. Nobody was seriously injured. – Bloomberg