Passengers on an Alaska Airlines plane that was forced to make an emergency landing when part of the fuselage fell off in midair said the ordeal was loud and terrifying.
Evan Granger, a passenger sitting in exit row seat 16F, said he heard a “loud bang” followed by a “gust of wind” about 20 minutes into the flight on Friday. He said both of his ears became clogged.
“I didn't want to look back to see what was happening,” Granger told NBC News. “My focus at that moment was just breathing into the oxygen mask and trusting that the flight crew would do everything they could to keep us safe.
“There were a lot of things that had to go right for all of us to survive,” Granger admitted, adding that he was “extremely grateful” that they were able to land safely.
Elizabeth Lu of Portland, Oregon, said she was about 20 minutes into her flight from Portland to Ontario, California, on Friday when she heard a loud noise.
“Suddenly I heard a big bang and I didn't know exactly what was going on, but I looked up and there were oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling,” Lu told the Southern California news outlet. OC Hawk. “Then I looked to my left and there was a huge piece, part of the plane that looked like it was missing.”
Lu said “extremely high” winds were blowing on the plane, but passengers remained in their seats and kept their seat belts fastened.
“I couldn’t think straight because of the strong wind,” she said.
She added: “I couldn't believe my eyes. There is a big gap. You can see the city, the stars and everything right outside the window. “It was crazy.”
No one was sitting in the window seat in the row directly next to where part of the plane fell, but the mother and son were in the middle and aisle seats in that row, Lu said.
She then heard that the mother had to hold her teenage son tightly to keep him from sliding out of the plane, she told me, adding that his shirt had flown off and looked very red, likely due to the strong winds.
Nicholas Hoch, a 33-year-old architect from Portland who was on the plane, told NBC News that he began calling family members out of fear he would not survive the ordeal.
“Those first few moments were confusing and upsetting and terrifying. And then in the moments that followed, that kind of stress and anxiety and those fears escalated even more.” “I started texting my girlfriend, my mom, and other loved ones and I didn’t know if I was going to do it. “
He recalled being in the air briefly minutes before there was a “buzz or small explosion” at the back of the plane.
“I heard it, felt it as a slight rattle, followed by an immediate drop in pressure in the cabin, which was actually like a cloud of steam rushing through the plane,” he said. “I think everyone was looking around to see what was happening. The plane shook a little and then the oxygen mask fell off. We put it on as quickly as we could.”
He said there wasn't a lot of communication from the cockpit, but he praised the crew for doing their job “very well.”
However, he felt a sense of caution.
“There was still this kind of unknown feeling of ‘Am we going to have to land this plane?’ Your mind is just kind of going to all these different places. So I was holding on tight, and I was preparing for the worst situation. And then as soon as we landed, everyone started applauding,” Hoch said. “There was a kind of collective sigh of relief.”
Another passenger, Jessica Montoya, told OC Hawk that the plane had just reached 10,000 feet when part of the wall appeared to separate.
“We flew for another three or four minutes, then we heard a pop and all the oxygen masks fell off,” she said. “I wasn't scared. I don't know why. No one really screamed or anything.
Montoya said she spoke to someone after the incident who told her his shirt and phone were “pulled” from the plane.
“It's been a ride from hell,” Montoya said.
A photo taken by a passenger showed an entire panel missing from the side of the plane next to a row of seats. The panel, known as a door seal, separated from the plane about 16,000 feet in the air, Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a news conference Saturday evening.
Passenger Stan Sigstad also described hearing a “popping noise” followed by strong winds that “came forward and then came back, hitting me in the face.”
Sigstad also said he wasn't afraid.
“I was a little nervous,” he told OC Hawk. “But I said to God: ‘I trust you.’”
The crew “reported a pressure issue” when part of the plane separated, leaving a large gap, the FAA said.
Le, Montoya, and Sigstad all noted how surprisingly quiet the passengers and crew were during the flight.
Montoya praised the flight attendants for staying calm and Sigstad added that the “calmness” of the pilot's voice was what “kept everyone calm.”
Flight 1282, carrying 174 passengers and six crew members, landed safely at Portland International Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered some Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft to be temporarily grounded for inspection, affecting about 171 aircraft worldwide.
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