Plane Door Falls Off Mid-Flight—The Warning Signs That Were Missed

The aircraft was previously held from flying to Hawaii for fear of an incident occurring over water.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded 171 models of the Boeing 737 Max 9 airplane and is calling for a mandatory inspection following a harrowing incident that occurred on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, offering nonstop service to Ontario, California, out of Portland International Airport.

RELATED: Another Extreme Turbulence Incident Just Injured 14 People Mid-Flight.

On Friday, 171 passengers and six crew members boarded an Alaska Airlines-operated Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft to Ontario, only to turn around moments later when a fuselage door plug flew off, leaving a "refrigerator-sized hole" on the side of the plane mid-flight, per CNN.

In videos posted to social media, passengers can be seen panicking while trying to secure their oxygen masks as the cabin became depressurized. Headrests were ripped off from nearby seats, and some tray tables went missing—as did passengers' personal items, such as phones and headphones.

Thankfully, there were no serious injuries and the door that came off mid-flight was next to two unoccupied seats. In a Jan. 7 press conference, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairperson Jennifer Homendy revealed that the agency had recovered the fuselage door plug in a local school teacher's backyard.

While it's not certain, there may have been some advanced warning of a potential issue: The NTSB said that the plane's auto pressurization fail light came on during three previous flights. Prior to take-off on Friday, that particular Alaska Airlines aircraft had been banned from flying over large bodies of water due to the advisory. Two of the flights where the light appeared happened just days before, on Jan. 3 and 4.

During the press conference, Homendy said that the advisory indication light was "very benign," and had even been reset. Therefore, Homedy says there is a possibility the light and the dramatic in-flight incident aren't related.

"We don't know that there was any correlation of the two," Homendy clarified. "It could be entirely separate."

Friday's event occurred after a maintenance request had been submitted for the light to be examined.

Speaking with local ABC-affiliate KATU 2, former Oregon congressman Peter DeFazio claimed "that plane might have gone down" had it been cruising at a higher altitude.

DeFazio, who headed a multi-year investigation into Boeing and errors in its automated pilot system, alleged that the aircraft manufacturer is more interested in selling tickets than in the safety of its passengers.

"This is Boeing continuing to chase Wall Street," DeFazio told KATU 2. "They have been ruining Boeing and pushing engineers out of the way to chase stock prices."

In a statement published on Jan. 6, Boeing stated, "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," the airline added. "We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers."

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Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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