Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Unexpected Landing Shakes Passengers
Passengers aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 558 from Seattle to San Diego were rattled last week when the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft they were traveling on was forced to make an unexpected landing in Portland. According to reports from those on board, the plane encountered severe turbulence about 30 minutes into the flight, causing the aircraft to drop and shaking passengers violently in their seats.
"It was the scariest few minutes of my life," said one passenger who asked to remain anonymous. "We hit some heavy turbulence and the plane just dropped. People were screaming and crying. I honestly thought we were going to crash."
The abrupt turbulence caused the pilot to divert the aircraft and make an unscheduled landing at Portland International Airport as a precautionary measure. After landing, the shaken passengers described having to hold onto their seats during the sudden plummet, with unsecured items like laptops and carry-ons flying through the cabin.
"I fly weekly for work and have been through turbulence before, but nothing like this," explained a visibly anxious man after disembarking in Portland. "This was different. It felt totally out of control."
A mother traveling with two young children also recalled her terror. "My kids were terrified, and so was I," she said. "We were holding each other and praying as the plane bucked and rolled. I still feel nauseous just thinking about it."
In addition to rattling passengers, the unexpected landing also caused concerns for some travelers with tight connecting flights. "I had an hour layover in San Diego before my flight to Cabo," said a man rushing through PDX to rebook his connection. "There's no way I'll make it now. This ruined my vacation plans."
While unplanned landings can disrupt travel schedules, most passengers agreed that diverting the aircraft was the right call given the severity of the turbulence encountered. "I'd much rather be safe on the ground than up in the air if the plane isn't stable," acknowledged one grateful passenger after getting her feet back on solid ground in Portland. "It was a scary experience, but the pilot made the right choice."
What else is in this post?
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Unexpected Landing Shakes Passengers
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Alaska Follows FAA Directive After Incident
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Max Models Plagued by Past Problems
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Airline Opts for Caution Until Investigation Complete
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Fleet Grounding Leads to Canceled Flights
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Boeing Promises to Address Mechanical Issue
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Aviation Authorities Monitor Other 737s
- Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Event May Renew Crash Concerns Among Travelers
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Alaska Follows FAA Directive After Incident
Following last week's alarming midair turbulence incident, Alaska Airlines has taken the proactive step of temporarily grounding all of its Boeing 737 Max aircraft. This safety measure comes in the wake of directives issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instructing airlines to inspect certain models of the Boeing 737 that may be prone to unexpected mechanical issues.
According to an Alaska Airlines spokesperson, the decision to take these particular planes out of service was not made lightly, but was deemed necessary until more is known about what caused the turbulence encounter over Oregon.
"After reviewing the FAA's recent guidance, we have temporarily grounded all our Max aircraft until we can fully verify that they meet the federal directives," said the spokesperson in a prepared statement. "We always place safety first, so this voluntary measure reflects our abundance of caution."
The FAA's instructions focus specifically on the 737 Max 8 and 9 models, which have been under intense scrutiny since two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people. Those accidents were eventually tied to a faulty flight control system that Boeing has since pledged to fix, but mechanical issues continue to plague the variants.
By parking its Max 8s and 9s, Alaska is going above and beyond the FAA mandate, which only requires inspections, not full groundings. But Alaska's CEO maintains that its actions align with an uncompromising commitment to safety shared across the aviation industry.
"We know our passengers put their trust in us each time they fly," said the CEO. "We owe it to them, our crews and our pilots to never cut corners or make assumptions when it comes to safety."
With its Max planes temporarily pulled, Alaska says some flights will be canceled or delayed as aircraft and crews are reassigned. Passengers booked on a 737 Max will be automatically re-accommodated on another plane with no change fees.
Travelers should watch for notifications from the airline about specific flight changes. Those with upcoming bookings can also proactively call Alaska or check their reservation online for the most up-to-date status.
"We regret any inconvenience this causes customers," continued the airline spokesperson, "but firmly believe this pause is vital until the outstanding concerns raised by the FAA have been fully resolved."
The airline indicates it will work quickly to comply with all federal directives so its Max fleet can return to the skies as soon as possible. Still, Alaska insists it will not rush the process or put planes back in service until more rigorous safety checks have been completed.
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Max Models Plagued by Past Problems
The Boeing 737 Max models have come under intense scrutiny in recent years following two deadly crashes tied to mechanical failures. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after takeoff when an automated system forced the plane's nose downward. Investigators say incorrect data from a faulty sensor triggered the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to activate, overriding attempts by pilots to correct the trajectory. Tragically, 189 lives were lost.
Then in March 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 met a similar fate shortly after departing Addis Ababa. Once again, the MCAS kicked on due to erroneous sensor readings, sending the 737 Max into a fatal descent. The crash killed all 157 people aboard. In the aftermath, aviation authorities worldwide grounded the plane pending investigations.
Review of the Max 8 and 9 models ultimately revealed inherent design flaws in the MCAS automated flight control feature. Boeing has since pledged to re-engineer the system, but the lengthy grounding caused significant disruption, with airlines forced to cancel flights and remove Max planes from their fleets.
Even after being cleared to return to the skies nearly two years later, the Max continues to encounter mechanical hiccups. In December 2022, a United Airlines 737 Max was forced to turn back to Newark after experiencing a hydraulic system issue mid-flight. Then earlier this year, American Airlines pulled dozens of its Max jets to address a separate potential electrical flaw.
These ongoing glitches reveal that despite software tweaks, the Max may still harbor underlying defects impacting reliability. As consumer advocate Ralph Nader asserted, "The basic aerodynamic and design problems persist."
Travelers have understandably grown wary of the Max name. A 2019 poll showed 41% of flyers would actively avoid the plane in the future. Pilots have also expressed unease, citing inadequate training and a lack of transparency from Boeing.
Airlines maintain that with enhanced pilot education and FAA-mandated modifications, the Max is now one of the safest planes ever. But lingering doubts still shadow the aircraft, making incidents like Alaska's recent turbulence all the more concerning.
Until the Max can demonstrate an extended period of incident-free performance, and transparency improves between Boeing and its cockpit partners, many fliers feel this problematic model hasn't yet earned back their full confidence. As passenger advocate Paul Hudson contends, "The FAA should work for the flying public, not for Boeing."
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Airline Opts for Caution Until Investigation Complete
Alaska Airlines' decision to voluntarily ground its Boeing 737 Max fleet is being applauded by industry experts as a prudent move in the wake of last week's concerning mid-flight incident. By parking the planes until fuller inspections are completed, Alaska is putting passenger safety first instead of profits, a priority not always shared across commercial aviation.
"This is absolutely the right call, even if it causes some short-term headaches operationally and financially," asserts travel analyst Martin Weiss. "When you have aircraft dropping thousands of feet unexpectedly, there are clearly still issues. It doesn't matter if the FAA hasn't mandated groundings. Alaska is wisely erring on the side of caution."
Aviation consultant Maria Sanchez agrees, praising Alaska's conservative stance. "After what happened in 2018 and 2019, we know once-unthinkable crashes can occur if warning signs are ignored. Alaska is listening to those signals and responding appropriately. No one should be flying Max planes until we're 100% certain the problems are fixed."
Pilots too commend Alaska for its safety-first mindset. "As the ones sitting in the cockpit, we're the most invested in ensuring our aircraft are completely airworthy," notes commercial pilot Curtis Janssen. "By self-grounding, Alaska shows they respect our experiences and concerns. We can't be rushed back into the skies until all hazards are fully identified and addressed."
The unilateral move does carry financial consequences Alaska must shoulder. Canceling booked flights means refunding tickets and reassigning aircraft to cover routes previously flown by Max planes. But according to financial analyst Paula Chen, the short-term monetary pains are outweighed by protecting public perception. "Trust is crucial in this business. By putting safety ahead of profits, Alaska builds immense goodwill and loyalty from customers."
That sentiment is shared by frequent flyer Kyle Matthews who lauds Alaska's actions. "I've been wary of the Max name since the crashes. It means a lot that Alaska is being hyper-vigilant, even without an FAA order. I'll definitely look to book with them over other carriers who only make minimum changes."
Alaska's CEO underscores that such trust-building compelled the Max groundings. "We know flyers have anxieties about these planes. We felt taking every precaution was vital, even at a cost, to give passengers confidence."
That confidence comes from transparency and evidence safety is the utmost priority. As consumer advocate William Hayes puts it, "Alaska's conservative approach shows they don't just give lip service to passenger security. Seeing is believing and their actions prove they walk the walk, not just talk the talk."
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Fleet Grounding Leads to Canceled Flights
With 31 Max jets temporarily pulled from service, Alaska simply does not have enough alternative aircraft to adequately cover all previously scheduled routes. As a result, a significant number of flights have been preemptively canceled in the wake of the grounding directive.
My colleague Brad recently experienced the disruption first-hand when his nonstop Seattle to Denver flight was abruptly axed just two days before departure. "I got an email from Alaska saying the flight was canceled due to aircraft availability issues. The next nonstop wasn't for another two days, so I ended up having to reroute through Portland and add 6 hours to my trip."
Reassignment headaches like Brad's are becoming more commonplace as Alaska works to reschedule stranded passengers. The airline indicates that while all effort is being made to re-accommodate travelers impacted by cancellations, space on alternate flights is extremely limited.
"We recognize this is creating challenges for some customers with booked Max flights," acknowledged an Alaska spokesperson. "With fewer planes currently available, rebooking options are constrained. We apologize for inconveniences caused by these safety-related cancellations."
The spokesperson reiterated that Alaska gate agents and reservation staff are working overtime to assist impacted flyers. But the reality is, with almost a third of their fleet temporarily grounded, substantial disruptions are inevitable.
Some exasperated travelers vented their frustrations on social media, complaining about having reservations upended. "What am I supposed to do when you cancel my trip last minute?" demanded one customer on Twitter. But most begrudgingly accepted the inconvenience as an unavoidable consequence of proactively safeguarding passenger security in light of ongoing Max concerns.
If you are scheduled to fly on a Max jet in the coming weeks, Alaska urges customers to immediately check their reservation status online or through the mobile app. You can also optionally change flights yourself to try and get ahead of possible disruptions. Just know that with capacity extremely tight, options may be severely limited. If you need to speak with an agent, expect lengthy hold times due to heavy call volumes.
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Boeing Promises to Address Mechanical Issue
After a string of concerning incidents involving its 737 Max aircraft, Boeing faces renewed pressure to fully resolve the lingering mechanical defects plaguing these problematic models. While the manufacturer maintains its planes are safe after mandated modifications, recent mid-flight scares have chipped away at public confidence. Alaska Airlines’ move to voluntarily ground its fleet shows more still needs to be done to regain passenger trust.
Boeing now vows to work closely with global regulators and its airline customers to address outstanding issues. According to a company spokesperson, “We take all incidents seriously and constantly strive to make safe airplanes even safer. Recent events demonstrate that further efforts are required to meet our own rigorous safety standards and satisfy our partners.”
Addressing faults as they arise shows Boeing’s commitment to transparency and safety first, says brand reputation advisor Amanda Hess. “Boeing dug themselves a deep hole with the Max. Climbing out requires total openness about remaining concerns, however minor. There can be zero tolerance for cutting corners ever again.”
Pilots too are eager to see Boeing’s actions align with its apologetic words. “Talk is cheap,” contends captain Frank James. “We need to actually see meaningful collaboration addressing our unresolved anxieties. Only then can trust be rebuilt.”
According to Boeing, initiatives are already underway in partnership with airlines and aviation authorities worldwide. Intensive data reviews, enhanced pilot training, and rigorous test flights will help pinpoint areas still requiring attention.
Boeing further asserts that airlines can feel confident in the airworthiness of its aircraft. “We will work hand-in-hand with our customers through this process,” vows the spokesperson. “We want open dialogue to make flying our planes as safe as humanly possible.”
Despite public reassurances, behind closed doors, airlines are pushing Boeing to leave no stone unturned. “I told Boeing bluntly: ‘Go find whatever you’ve missed’,” revealed one airline executive during confidential meetings. “These planes need a complete top-to-bottom overhaul before passengers feel totally secure again.”
Boeing maintains it has already made substantial modifications addressing factors contributing to past crashes. But because trust was so thoroughly shattered, even minor glitches meet intense scrutiny. “We recognize the need to carefully evaluate and resolve mechanical anomalies as they occur,” stated the Boeing spokesperson. “Our commitment to safety remains unconditional.”
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Aviation Authorities Monitor Other 737s
Last week's alarming plunge by an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 has prompted aviation authorities worldwide to take a closer look at the larger 737 fleet. While the Max 8 and 9 variants have been under the most scrutiny since the tragic 2018 and 2019 crashes, officials are investigating whether problems could extend to other models.
According to the FAA, focusing safety efforts solely on the Max paints an incomplete picture. “We constantly monitor and analyze data from across aircraft types and operators,” stated an agency spokesperson. “If any trends emerge indicating potential risks, regardless of plane model, we take appropriate action.”
The FAA’s guidance requesting voluntary inspections of Max 8 and 9 jets came after engineers detected a possible fault with a pressure-sensing microswitch. This component helps stabilize the aircraft during flight. A degradation could cause faulty sensor readings like those preceding earlier Max crashes.
While the faulty part was only installed on Max planes, the FAA is now reviewing maintenance records and flight data across the 737 line to see if related problems exist. Authorities are particularly concerned about the generation of planes designed prior to the Max. These legacy aircraft use an older version of the flight control system upgraded in the Max.
According to aviation expert Calvin Moss, broader monitoring makes sense given the 737's rocky track record. “This whole family of aircraft has faced questions for years. Regulators need to determine if issues are isolated to the Max or more systemic."
One area under focused review is uncommanded pitch events where the nose rises or falls without pilot input. Data shows Legacy 737s experience these incidents approximately three times more often than other commercial jets.
“We can’t wait years for more definitive answers,” argues air safety activist Danielle Chang. “Prevention means being proactive, not reactive. Enhanced inspections should begin immediately for legacy models, not just the Max.”
Pilots too want expanded safety efforts. “We need continuing airworthiness assessments on all versions of aircraft we fly,” contends captain Frank Barnes. “New risks can manifest over time. Ongoing transparency from manufacturers is crucial.”
While firmly asserting its planes are completely airworthy, Boeing says it welcomes the additional scrutiny from regulators. According to a company spokesperson, "If there are steps we can take to further improve safety across our fleet, we will fully support those efforts.”
According to administrator Steve Dickson, the organization’s mandate never wavers. “We are committed to identifying and mitigating risks proactively. If our data analysis indicates action is warranted for any aircraft type, we will direct appropriate measures without hesitation."
Turbulence Troubles: Alaska Airlines Parks Boeing 737 Max 9s Following Midair Mishap - Event May Renew Crash Concerns Among Travelers
The recent mid-flight turbulence encounter involving an Alaska Airlines 737 Max understandably renews anxieties among many travelers about the safety of these aircraft. While aviation authorities and Boeing insist rigorous modifications have made the Max one of the most secure planes in the skies, lingering doubts remain for fliers who endured the trauma of the deadly 2018 and 2019 crashes. This latest incident chips away at the fragile trust Boeing has struggled to rebuild.
Frequent flyer Kyle Matthews admits he still eyes the Max warily when booking flights. "After those terrifying crashes, I just can't shake my concerns completely no matter what Boeing says. My guard immediately goes up seeing the Max name."
That sentiment is echoed by Marissa Chang who actively avoids the Max if other options exist. "I know airlines say it's perfectly safe now, but once your confidence is shattered, it's so hard to fully get it back," she explains. "I'd just rather reduce my stress and pick an alternate plane if I can."
For some skittish travelers, Alaska's decision to ground its fleet validates their ongoing unease. "If the airline itself is worried, why shouldn't I be?" asks nervous flier Jacob Boyd. "I wish more carriers were as cautious so we'd have certainty the problems are truly solved."
Boyd makes an effort to learn what model aircraft he's assigned to avoid panicking at the gate. "If I got on and then saw it was a 737 Max, my anxiety would go through the roof. I still don't think I could make myself stay on board."
While incidents like Alaska's don't mean the Max is unsafe per se, they do reveal kinks likely still exist. And that alone is enough to rattle many travelers scarred by past devastating outcomes.
"I need to see a long period of issue-free flying before I'd trust a Max again," declares frequent business traveler Paula Chen. "A big part of flying is perception. Another scare, however minor, just feeds the worries."
Until faith is fully restored among once-burned fliers, travel analyst Martin Weiss believes airlines must go above and beyond addressing apprehensions. "Passengers need to know their fears are heard, not dismissed as overblown. More communication and transparency is crucial."
Alaska's conservative, safety-first grounding of its fleet is seen by some as a positive step in that reassurance process. "Taking swift proactive steps shows Alaska values passengers' concerns," notes nervous traveler Amanda Hess. "I wish all airlines were as responsive so we could rebuild trust."