The Mom and Son Sitting in Front of the Blown Out Window on Alaska Flight 1282

Dominic Gates, reporting for The Seattle Times last week:

When the Boeing 737 MAX 9’s side blew out explosively on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Friday evening, a 15-year-old high school student was in the window seat in the row directly ahead, his shoulder beside the edge of the gaping hole.

His mother, who was seated beside him, in the middle seat of row 25, described the moment as a very loud bang, like “a bomb exploding.”

As the air in the passenger cabin rushed out, the Oregon woman turned and saw her son’s seat twisting backward toward the hole, his seat headrest ripped off and sucked into the void, her son’s arms jerked upward.

“He and his seat were pulled back and towards the exterior of the plane in the direction of the hole,” she said. “I reached over and grabbed his body and pulled him towards me over the armrest.”

The boy had been wearing a T-shirt and a V-neck pullover windbreaker. Both were ripped off his body. “I could see his back,” Faye said. “My mind just assumed his shirt had been pulled up by me grabbing him. I did not know that it had been torn off. It didn’t even occur to me.”

A harrowing story. If his shirt and pullover were pulled off his body, and his seatbelt headrest sucked through the void, it sure sounds like he was nearly sucked out of the plane. Terrific reporting by Gates, too — the mother’s name is not publicly known, and she was initially resistant to tell her story to the press. She changed her mind only after Alaska Airlines put forth a version of events that made the incident seem far more tame than it clearly was. Good infographics, too.

Unmentioned in the story is whether the passengers near the door plug were wearing their seatbelts. I suspect they all were, perhaps luckily, because the plane had only just taken off and was still ascending to cruise altitude. In years past I’d often leave my seatbelt unbuckled mid-flight, other than when the pilot turned on the mandatory seatbelt light, but a few bouts of out-of-nowhere turbulence over the years changed my mind on that. Never in a million years would I have considered a scenario like this one.

Saturday, 13 January 2024