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Alaska Airlines will ground 65 of its Boeing 737 Max jets after a section of one of its planes blew out in mid-air shortly after take-off.
The plane, a 737 Max 9, which was carrying 171 passengers and six crew, returned safely to Portland, Oregon, 35 minutes into its flight to California on Friday night.
Photos and videos shared on social media by passengers showed a portion of a side wall and a window missing and oxygen masks deployed.
The aircraft reached an altitude of just over 16,000 feet during the flight, according to flight tracking data.
The airline said on Saturday that it had decided to take the “precautionary step” of temporarily grounding its fleet of Max 9s.
“Each aircraft will be returned to service only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections,” said Ben Minicucci, the airline’s chief executive, in a statement on its website.
The airline expects all inspections to be completed in the next few days and is working with Boeing and regulators to understand what happened.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the crew had reported a “pressurisation issue” and that it would investigate. Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said it was “monitoring the situation” and in contact with both Boeing and the FAA.
Boeing said it was aware of the incident and was “working to gather more information”. It said a “technical team” was ready to support the investigation.
The new Max 9 was delivered in late October to Alaska Airlines and certified in early November, according to online FAA data.
The Max model is the newest version of Boeing’s 737 twin-engined aircraft and is often used on domestic US flights.
Boeing’s Max has been under scrutiny from regulators for several years after two models of the smaller variant, the Max 8, crashed in 2018 and 2019. The accidents killed a combined 346 people and led to the grounding of the model for 20 months.
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