On Friday, a passenger plane lost a section of its fuselage mid-flight, forcing it to make an emergency landing in the US state of Oregon.
After an outer section, including a window, fell, the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 returned to Portland 35 minutes into its flight to California.
According to Alaska, there were 177 passengers and crew on board, and the plane “landed safely.”
The airline announced that it would “temporarily” ground all 65 of its 737 Max 9 planes for inspections.
Boeing acknowledged the incident and stated that it is “working to gather more information.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority told the BBC that it is “very closely monitoring the situation.”
Passenger Diego Murillo told KPTV that the gap was “as wide as a refrigerator” and that he heard a “really loud punch” as the oxygen masks dropped from above.
He went on to say: “They said there was a kid in that row whose shirt was sucked off him and out of the plane and his mother was holding onto him to make sure he didn’t go with it.”
Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci announced the grounding of the 65 planes, saying, “Each aircraft will be returned to service only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections.”
Mr Minicucci praised the efforts of the flight’s six crew members, who had reached 16,000ft (4,876m) when the emergency descent began, according to flight tracking data.
Pictures sent to media outlets show the night sky apparent through a gap in the fuselage, as well as insulation material and other debris.
Other images show the seat closest to the affected area, an unoccupied window seat, leaning forward without its cushion.
“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you encountered,” he said.
“I am so grateful for the response of our pilots and flight attendants.”
An audio clip shows the pilot speaking to air traffic control and requesting a diversion.
“We’d like to get lower if possible,” she inquired. “We are a medical emergency.” We are depressed and must return. We have a total of 177 passengers.”
The affected area, according to photographs, was in the plane’s back third, behind the wing and engines.
The fuselage section in question appears to be an area that some operators of the aircraft type can use as an additional emergency exit door, but Alaska cannot.
Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 “returned safely… after the crew reported a pressurization issue,” according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Boeing stated that its “technical team stands ready to support the investigation” .
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed that it is looking into the incident.
Following a series of safety issues and investigations, the Boeing 737 Max has been dubbed “the most scrutinized transport aircraft in history.”
The Max was grounded for a year and a half in March 2019 after two of the type crashed in similar circumstances, killing those on board.
According to aviation expert John Strickland, the Alaska Airlines incident is distinct, and the 737 Max has had “an enormous safety record” since it returned to service.
“While we know little evidence of why this section of the fuselage has come out – this has nothing to do with the aircraft being grounded for 18 months,” he said in an interview with BBC News.
“But, it is natural Alaska Airlines is taking a cautious approach to grounding its fleet and we will have to see the outcome in the coming hours if any more instructions are issued by Boeing and the American authorities.”
More recently, Boeing said it would speed up 737 Max deliveries after resolving a supply issue that required lengthy inspections of new planes and inventory, according to Reuters.
According to Boeing data, approximately 1,300 737 Max aircraft have been delivered to customers.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advised airlines last month to inspect Max 9 models for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control systems.