The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday ordered U.S. airlines to stop using some Boeing 737 Max 9 planes until they are inspected, less than a day after one of those planes lost a chunk of its body in midair “with an extremely loud pop,” terrifying passengers before the jet safely returned to ground.
Those on board Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 described an unnerving experience during the 20 minutes of the flight, which was destined for Ontario, Calif., but returned to Portland International Airport in Oregon on Friday night. As yellow oxygen masks dangled above their heads, a powerful wind tore through a gaping hole that showed the night sky and the city lights below. No one aboard the plane was seriously injured.
A passenger, Vi Nguyen of Portland, said that she woke up to a loud sound during the flight. Then she saw a large hole in the side of the aircraft.
“I open up my eyes and the first thing I see is the oxygen mask right in front of me,” Ms. Nguyen, 22, said. “And I look to the left and the wall on the side of the plane is gone.”
“The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to die,’” she added.
The F.A.A.’s order will affect about 171 planes.
While the F.A.A. has yet to publicly discuss the cause of the incident, in its grounding order to the airlines, it asked that they inspect what it called a “mid cabin door plug.” Some of the Boeing 737 Max 9s are configured with fewer seats and, therefore, do not need all the emergency exits originally designed for the plane. The unneeded exits are filled with a plug.