What Really Happened Aboard Flight 1282?

A door-sized section of airplane was blown out near the rear of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.
A door-sized section of airplane was blown out near the rear of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. | Image by National Transportation Safety Board

Last Friday, 10 minutes after taking off from Portland, Oregon, a door-sized section of airplane was blown out near the rear of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, terrifying passengers aboard.

The incident reportedly felt like an explosion, shaking the plane and triggering the oxygen masks to drop. White vapor traveled through the cabin as lights flickered and passengers screamed. While some were scared, others said they were confused and disoriented.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to die,’” Vi Nguyen, 22, told The New York Times.

Uncertain about his fate, Nicholas Hoch, 33, who was sitting in seat 12A near the front of the Boeing 737 Max 9, began texting his mother and girlfriend, telling them something was wrong with the plane and that he loved them.

The flight, which was destined for Ontario, California, was initially delayed roughly 20 minutes for de-icing.

The cause of the incident is still being investigated, but on Monday, authorities announced that a key piece of evidence — the airplane’s black box cockpit voice recorder — would not be in play.

“The cockpit voice recorder was completely overwritten. There was nothing on the cockpit voice recorder. … We have nothing,” said National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy, according to the New York Post.

At 5:07 p.m. PT, loaded with 171 passengers and six crew members, Flight 1282 departed Portland. It had reached about 16,000 feet and was traveling approximately 440 miles per hour when the incident occurred.

“We definitely felt that we were descending quickly,” said Vicki Kreps, a nurse from Vancouver, Washington. She was traveling with her two grandchildren, ages 7 and 5.

Passengers could instantly feel the change in air pressure. “The best way I can describe it is like puncturing a CO2 canister and that vapor releasing out of the canister. But we were in that canister,” said Hoch.

Fortunately, no one was sitting in row 26, where the plane was damaged. Still, some items were reportedly sucked out of the plane, like two nearby headrests and passengers’ possessions, including phones and earbuds, as reported by The New York Times.

Hoch said people remained “eerily calm despite the traumatic event.” Eventually, the flight circled back to Portland, landing at 5:27 p.m. PT.

“The plane was stable. It wasn’t shaking, it wasn’t making any weird maneuvers, it was just flying steady,” said Evan Smith, a lawyer and former military police officer who was on the flight.

“At that point, I was sure the aircraft was fine and we were going to get down OK,” he said.

Aside from a man who hurt his foot sitting directly behind the gaping hole, no injuries were reported.

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