Alaska Airlines blowout: 197 planes grounded after dramatic mid-air incident on new aircraft stuns aviation experts

A total of 197 Boeing planes worldwide have been temporarily grounded after a chunk of fuselage dramatically blew out of a brand-new passenger jet in mid-air. 

US regulators say immediate inspections are needed after an Alaska Airlines plane suffered a cabin emergency shortly after take-off on Friday.

Photos showed a gaping hole in the side of the Boeing 737-9 MAX – and although the jet landed safely with more than 170 passengers and six crew in Oregon, phones and a boy’s shirt were sucked out of the plane.

A number of airlines have now temporarily suspended multiple aircraft while the issue is investigated.

United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have grounded 79 and 65 planes respectively, and made dozens of cancellations. They say it could be days until grounded planes return to service.

Latin American carriers have also been affected with Copa Airlines grounding 29 planes while a further 19 have been temporarily taken out of service by Aeromexico.

Five aircraft belonging to Turkish Airlines are also being examined as a precaution.

It takes up to eight hours to inspect each aircraft, and the Federal Aviation Administration has warned more action may be taken.

Flydubai has three Boeing 737-9 MAX planes in its fleet but these will continue to carry passengers as they are not affected by the door plug issue.

Meanwhile, investigators are hunting for the fuselage that blew off the Alaska Airlines aircraft, and believe it is in a small suburb of Portland called Cedar Hills. Anyone who finds it is being urged to contact the police.

Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters that “we are very lucky” that the accident wasn’t far worse.

She revealed no one was sitting in the seats immediately next to the fuselage – and because the plane had not reached cruising altitude, passengers and crew were not moving around the cabin.

Warning “there is a lot of work to do”, she stressed: “We have the safest aviation system in the world. It is incredibly safe. We are the global gold standard for safety around the world, but we have to maintain that standard.”