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US teacher finds part of Alaska Airlines plane panel in yard

A teacher in Oregon has found part of an Alaska Airlines airplane panel that blew out mid-flight in his backyard, officials said, as shares in the beleaguered manufacturer Boeing began falling in pre-market trading Monday after the near-disaster. Dozens of flights have been canceled around the world as airline and safety bodies ground some versions of Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 jet pending inspections after the emergency, which miraculously saw no major injuries. On Friday, Alaska Flight 1282 departed from Portland International Airport and was gaining altitude when the cabin crew reported a “pressurization issue”, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the plane quickly returning to Portland. Video images of the incident, which showed a gaping hole in the side of the plane, air rushing through the cabin, oxygen masks dangling and travelers observing city lights below them through the opening, were seen around the world. “I am excited to announce we have found the door plug,” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy said at a press briefing. A door plug is a cover panel used to fill an unneeded emergency exit in planes with smaller seat configurations. “He took a picture,” she said, referring to the school teacher who she named only as “Bob.” “I can just see the outside of the door plug from the pictures, the white portions. We can’t see anything else but we’re going to go pick that up and make sure that we begin analyzing it.” She said it was “very, very fortunate” that the incident had not ended in tragedy. – Boeing shares fall – It is not yet clear what went wrong on the flight, but shares in Boeing from falling in pre-market trading on Monday. The company’s stock price was down more than eight percent at around $228 ahead of the New York Stock Exchange open. Boeing had closed on Friday up 1.66 percent at $249. The incident is the latest setbacks for the manufacturer, particularly over the 737 MAX. The worst were two crashes — of a Lion Air flight in October 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019 — that caused the deaths of 346 people in total and triggered the grounding of all 737 MAX planes for nearly two years. After the Alaska Airlines incident, the FAA said that around 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 worldwide would be grounded for inspections, with each check taking four to eight hours. US-based Alaska and United Airlines fly the largest number of MAX 9 planes of any carrier, and said Sunday they had grounded their aircraft for inspection. Other airlines with smaller MAX 9 fleets, including Indonesia-based Lion Air, said they did the same. Boeing has so far delivered about 218 of the 737 MAX planes worldwide. The plane manufacturer late Sunday said its chief executive Dave Calhoun has set an all-employee safety meeting for Tuesday at the company’s factory in Washington state. – ‘Just popped off’ – Passenger Kyle Rinker told CNN the incident occurred soon after takeoff. “It was really abrupt. Just got to altitude, and the window/wall just popped off,” he told the broadcaster. The NTSB said no one was occupying the two seats nearest the panel, but The Oregonian newspaper quoted passengers as saying a young boy seated in the row had his shirt ripped off by the sudden decompression, injuring him slightly. According to Aviation Week magazine, airlines that choose MAX models with smaller seating configurations can have the door sealed up, making it look like a typical window from the inside. The plane, which had been heading to Ontario, California, was certified airworthy in October and was newly delivered to Alaska Airlines, according to the FAA registry website. “Safety is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement.

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