A group of passengers who were aboard the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 that made an emergency landing in Portland on January 6th after a plane door blew out mid-flight have filed a lawsuit against Boeing. The lawsuit alleges negligence and seeks unspecified monetary damages from the aircraft manufacturer.
Background of the Incident
On January 6th, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was traveling from Seattle to San Diego with over 160 people on board when a plug on an exterior panel door on the plane blew out, causing rapid decompression.
The Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft was at an altitude of 35,000 feet when the approximately 18-by-12 inch panel departed the plane, leaving a gaping hole in the fuselage. Oxygen masks deployed in the cabin while the pilots quickly descended and diverted the flight to Portland International Airport.
Remarkably, there were no serious injuries reported among the passengers and crew members. However, many described the experience as “terrifying” and are still coping with the emotional trauma.
Lawsuit Allegations Against Boeing
The lawsuit filed this week on behalf of 29 passengers alleges negligence and failure to properly design, manufacture, and test the 737-9 Max aircraft on Boeing’s part.
Specifically, it states that Boeing failed to:
- Properly oversee, test, and validate the production of the aircraft
- Ensure structural integrity by identifying weaknesses or deficiencies
- Warn airlines, pilots, crew, passengers, and regulators of weaknesses and deficiencies
It also alleges that Boeing placed “profits over safety” in rushing the plane back into service after it was previously grounded.
The incident is still under investigation by the FAA and NTSB. Initial findings indicate that two of the fasteners designed to hold the plug in place had failed.
Passenger Accounts of the Terrifying Incident
Many passengers have spoken out to media about the traumatic experience aboard Flight 1282 that day.
Juliana Huston, 19, was seated in the second row and the panel explosion happened right next to her:
“It was the most terrifying experience of my life. There was a huge explosion and I felt myself getting sucked towards the hole. If my seat belt wasn’t tightly fastened, I could have been ejected from the plane.”
48-year old Michael Allen described seeing debris and personal belongings getting vacuumed out of the cabin as oxygen masks dropped down:
“It was sheer and utter chaos. The plane was shaking violently. We all thought we were done for.”
|Description of Incident
|Juliana Huston, 19
|“Most terrifying experience of my life. Felt myself getting sucked towards the hole”
|Michael Allen, 48
|“Sheer and utter chaos. Plane shaking violently. Thought we were done for”
|Bob Williams, 54
|“I saw the panel and debris falling past my window. Didn’t know if we’d make it.”
Incredibly, a Portland resident named Bob Williams found the door panel and debris scattered across his yard as he returned home that evening.
“I saw the panel and debris falling past my window. We were plunging so fast I didn’t know if we’d make it,” he recalled.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the emotional, psychological, and physical distress caused to passengers over the incident.
Boeing CEO Promises Transparency and Accountability
In a statement this week, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the company takes full responsibility for the engineering and design cause of the panel departing the aircraft.
He committed to transparency and accountability around the investigation findings but stopped short of admitting liability over the incident.
Calhoun acknowledged the 737 Max family has a challenging history after being grounded for nearly two years following two deadly crashes. This latest incident only further damages confidence in Boeing.
The manufacturer will be cooperating fully with all ongoing investigations by authorities, Calhoun confirmed. Any necessary changes to inspections, design, policies or procedures will be made.
He offered his personal apologies to the passengers and crew of Flight 1282 for the “horrifying” incident.
Airlines Cancel Hundreds More Boeing 737-9 Flights
In the wake of last week’s incident, Alaska Airlines has canceled more than 60 flights on the newer 737-9 Max planes as inspections are carried out.
United Airlines has also proactively canceled around 200 flights that were scheduled to use this aircraft.
The move will lead to further disruptions and rebooking challenges for travelers, but airlines insist that safety is the number one priority.
Confidence in Boeing has already been shattered over the 737 Max, and carriers don’t want to risk another deadly crash like those in 2018 and 2019. Over 350 people were killed in the two crashes involving the plane’s automated flight control system.
Boeing Whistleblower Not Surprised
A former senior Boeing engineer turned whistleblower says he is “not at all surprised” by the latest 737 Max incident after repeatedly warning executives about problems at the company.
His complaints about Boeing putting speed and cost-cutting over quality and safety were ignored for years, but now seem prophetic.
The same issues he identified around shoddy work environment and lack of oversight appear to have played a role again in the Alaska Airlines emergency.
Production pressures and lack of proper inspection protocols at Boeing’s manufacturing partners likely led to the flawed door plug installation, the whistleblower claims.
If substantiated, this would indicate fundamental failures of safety culture and regulatory supervision at Boeing.
What Comes Next
There are likely to be months more of investigation, analysis, hearings, and lawsuits around this incident and Boeing’s deficiencies.
While this plane did not crash, the similarities to the other deadly 737 Max crashes in terms of design flaws and corporate negligence cannot be ignored.
It will ratchet up pressure on Boeing executives and the FAA regulators who are supposed to oversee aviation safety in the public’s interest.
More congressional hearings can be expected concerning Boeing’s safety lapses and the company could face criminal charges over their handling of the 737 Max program overall.
This recent Alaska Airlines emergency will also bolster demands for stronger whistleblower protections and increased regulator safety oversight powers in the long-running debate between industry and government supervision.
For now, the 737 Max 9 remains grounded indefinitely as the FAA investigation continues along with the NTSB analysis of the components recovered from flight 1282. It will likely be months before the aircraft is deemed fit to return to passenger service – if ever.
With lawsuits proceeding and reputational damage compounding, Boeing still has huge questions to answer around why passenger safety took yet another back seat to profits in their corporate decision making.
Sincere apologies and promises of transparency from the CEO at this point ring hollow for many of the traumatized passengers, crew, families affected and industry experts observing this preventable near-disaster unfold.
Trust has been shattered and it will take fundamental cultural and organizational changes before Boeing can expect to regain that. Though the passengers of Alaska Airlines 1282 narrowly avoided a catastrophic crash, make no mistake – this was a serious incident with over 150 lives endangered due to corporate FAILURES that should have been addressed after previous disasters. Those responsible must be held fully accountable.
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