By Will Potter And Alice Wright For Dailymail.Com
13:42 06 Jan 2024, updated 08:33 07 Jan 2024
- Terrified passengers have revealed what it was like on board an Alaska Airlines flight that almost ended in catastrophe on Friday evening
- Emma Vu said she was asleep when she ‘felt the entire plane drop’, as a cabin window blew out and depressurized the jet
- She texted her family her final goodbyes, while other passengers said they were preparing for their ‘final moments’
A terrified passenger on board a near-catastrophic Alaska Airlines flight revealed the moment she text her family ‘I don’t want to die’ after a window on the jet blew out.
Emma Vu took to TikTok after surviving the horror Alaska Airlines flight 1282 on Friday evening, which was bound from Portland to California before a cabin window blasted into the sky at 16,000 feet.
‘In the moment I was so scared,’ Vu said, as she showed her panic-stricken texts to her family reading: ‘The masks r down; I am so scared right now; Please pray for me; Please I don’t want to die.’
In an interview with 7News Australia, she added: ‘I was more concerned with the plane dropping… I looked outside and it was going pretty smoothly, I think everyone freaking out inside made me freak out.’
One person was reportedly helped by paramedics but did not suffer serious injuries, while some passengers lost their phones and belongings as the depressurization of the cabin sucked items into the night.
Investigations have been launched by the National Transportation Safety Board, Alaska Airlines and Boeing, with the Boeing 737-9 MAX jet only going into service in November 2023.
The incident has sent shockwaves through the aviation industry and sparked urgent safety concerns, with Alaska Airlines grounding dozens of its Boeing 737-9 MAX jets for urgent safety checks following the emergency landing.
Reports indicate several other airlines and regulators are urgently looking into grounding their Boeing 737-9 MAX fleets, with critics pointing to several deadly crashes and systems failures involving the jets in recent years.
Shocking footage from inside the plane saw fliers sat in eerie silence shortly after the window exploded, as they looked out of a gaping hole of the fuselage with the twinkling lights of Portland below.
Vu said she was asleep when the devastating safety failure erupted out of the blue, when she ‘felt the entire plane drop.’
‘The masks dropped, and people are screaming,’ she continued, next to a tearful selfie she took in the moment that she feared could be her last.
‘I am so grateful for the ladies sat next to me… they were so sweet at calming me down, and the flight attendants were giving oxygen tanks to those who needed it more,’ she said.
‘But I was freaking out because my bag wouldn’t inflate – and that’s literally what they tell you in the safety thing, like don’t worry you’re still getting air flow… when you’re in fight or flight you’re not thinking about that.’
‘It was just so scary, no one knew what was happening, the pilot came on to tell everyone to put your mask on before you help others – literally word for word what they tell you in the safety training.’
‘A toddler’s shirt flew off, and their phone flew out the window,’ she added. ‘It was just so surreal.’
In audio from inside the cockpit, the pilot could be heard radioing for emergency help, saying: ‘Portland approach, Alaska 1282 emergency! Aircraft is now leveling 12,000 in a left turn heading three four zero.
‘We need a divert. We’ve declared an emergency. We are depressurized. We have 177 passengers on board and a seal is…18,900’ the pilot can be heard explaining.
Another passenger, 20-year-old Elizabeth, told Oregon Live that the moment the window blew out ‘sounded like your ears were popping like normally on a plane, but 10 times louder. I couldn’t believe it was real.’
‘We were all calm,’ she said of her fellow passenger, ‘but I did feel like I was about to cry, because who knows this could be my last few moments.’
Another passenger, Kyle Rinker, 29, said the plane became ‘deathly silent. Nobody made a noise.’
Reports suggest that 26A, the seat next to the blown-out window, was not occupied.
After the reality of the situation set in and the plane landed safely, Vu said she was left disappointed by the response of Alaska Airlines in helping the terrified passengers.
She said the airline only offered her drinks and snacks and a re-imbursed flight for the next day with more leg room, which she felt was ‘really not enough’ to make up for the ordeal.
Upon landing, she said the fliers ‘stood in this really long Alaska line, and it did not move for like one to two hours.
‘I even tried to call Alaska customer service to see if I could get ahead of the line, and it did not work out.’
Despite her brush with death, Vu said she decided to still get the free flight the next day to California, because ‘I feel it really cannot happen twice.’
Upset with the response of the airline, she concluded: ‘Alaska, would love some money, maybe some money for therapy, maybe another flight.’
Investigations have been launched to determine how the catastrophic failure was able to happen, with reports suggesting the jet had only recently been constructed and put into service.
The window that blew out was designed as an emergency exit, although the door was deactivated by Boeing before delivery.
It therefore appears from the inside of the cabin like a regular window seat, although from the outside the frame of the deactivated door remains visible. The area of fuselage that was ripped out aligns perfectly with that door frame, suggesting a possible structural failure.
The emergency exit doors are designed to open inwardly and cannot be pushed outwards, according to Airline Reporter.
The National Safety Transport Board said it was investigating the event and will post any updates when they are available.
Alaska Airlines says it is grounding 65 of its Boeing 737-9 MAX jets in response to the incident for urgent safety checks.
The airline’s CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement the planes will only go back into its fleet after clearing precautionary maintenance procedures, which he expected to be ‘in the next few days.’
The Boeing 737-9 MAX rolled off the assembly line just two months ago, receiving its certification in November 2023, according to FAA record posted online.
In a statement late Friday evening, Alaska Airlines said: ‘Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California, experienced an incident this evening soon after departure.
‘The aircraft landed safely back at Portland International Airport with 171 guests and 6 crew members.
‘The safety of our guests and employees is always our primary priority, so while this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation.’
‘We are investigating what happened and will share more information as it becomes available.’
Boeing unveiled their 737 Max in 2015, and since its Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval in 2017 has become one of the most widely used aircraft in the world.
A year later it had its first crash: in October 2018 a 737 Max operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed shortly after take off, killing all 189 on board.
Five months later, in March 2019, a second 737 Max – this one operated by Ethiopian Airlines – crashed again shortly after take off, killing all 157 on board.
Three days later the planes were grounded by the FAA.
It later emerged that Boeing staff, in internal messages, were cavalier about FAA regulations and critical of the Max’s design.
One said it the aircraft was ‘designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.’
The 737 design dates back to the 1960s and Boeing was criticized for adding large engines to an old airframe instead of using a ‘clean sheet design’.
Faults were discovered in the aircraft’s MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System: the MCAS was found in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes to have erroneously pointed the nose down towards the ground, and the pilots were unable to override it.
In 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion in fines in a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to settle charges the company hid critical information about the Max from regulators and the public.
Boeing spent billions overhauling the systems and the planes returned to global skies in the fall of 2020, after being grounded for 20 months — the longest such action in aviation history.