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Posted: 12/27/2005 8:49:34 PM EDT


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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 ·

Hole in fuselage forces Alaska Airlines jet to return to Sea-Tac

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEATTLE -- A foot-long hole in the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines jet caused the plane to lose cabin pressure, forcing the crew to make an emergency descent from 26,000 feet and return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, authorities said Tuesday.

The incident Monday afternoon involved an MD-80 jet en route to Burbank, Calif. The plane landed safely at Sea-Tac and none of the 140 passengers or five crew members was hurt, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Caroline Boren said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating, along with the airline and the Port of Seattle.

A ramp worker has acknowledged he failed to immediately report striking the plane at the gate Monday with a baggage cart or baggage-belt machine, NTSB spokesman Jim Struhsaker said.

The worker told the agency that although the vehicle touched the plane, he was not aware he had dented it, Struhsaker said.

The bump created a crease in the plane's aluminum skin, which opened up into a 12- by 6-inch gash as the plane came under increased pressure at 26,000 feet, Struhsaker said.

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On Tuesday, Alaska Airlines contacted the Port of Seattle "and asked our police department to take a hit-and-run report," port spokesman Bob Parker said Tuesday evening. "We're coming into this a full 18 hours after the fact. We got involved after Alaska Airlines reported a hit-and-run involving their airplane."

The worker was employed by Menzies Aviation, a British company that Alaska contracts with to provide baggage handling and other ramp services at Sea-Tac, Boren said.

Alaska Flight 536 left the airport for Burbank just before 4 p.m. Monday. The flight crew reported a loss of cabin pressure about 20 minutes later, Boren said. Oxygen masks deployed for passengers and the plane made a rapid descent, landing at Sea-Tac just before 5 p.m., she said.

"I could feel that obviously my ears popping and that's not a good symbol and that didn't go away and then it got hard to breathe and then whoosh all the compression in the plane was lost. We totally decompressed," passenger Jeremy Hermanns told KING-TV.

The hole was on the right side of the plane between the forward and middle cargo holds, Boren said. It was about 4 feet beneath passenger windows.

"I can tell you that there was a ramp vehicle that did make contact with the aircraft prior to the aircraft leaving for Burbank," she said. She did not know the exact type of vehicle, the exact sequence of events of the contact being reported, nor the status of the worker involved.

About 430 Menzies workers provide services for Alaska at Sea-Tac, Boren said. Meetings were being held with them to review safety procedures, including the "rapid and thorough reporting" of incidents on the ground, she said.

"We're working with the NTSB to review all the information relative to this event," Boren said.

The plane was being repaired and should be back in service within a few days, she added.

Menzies Aviation did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday night.

Last May, Alaska Airlines laid off nearly 500 baggage handlers and other ramp workers at Sea-Tac, saying it needed to trim costs amid rising fuel prices and fierce competition from low-cost carriers.

In a statement then, Alaska said hiring Menzies Aviation to provide those ramp services at the airport would save $13 million a year.

Alaska Airlines is the nation's ninth-largest carrier. Together with its sister airline, Horizon Air, it flies to more than 80 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Link Posted: 12/27/2005 9:21:02 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/27/2005 9:22:41 PM EDT by 1GunnerHogan1]
Hey...Flying at 35K in a pressurized aluminum tibe has its risks
Still, having spent my ENTIRE life flying and in the aerospace business I would rather get on an airplane ANY DAY OF THE FREAKIN WEEK than drive down the 5 Freeway (note THE 5 versus saying I-5) I-5? WTF?

Flying is 100 times better than getting in a car!
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 7:29:17 AM EDT
The ramp worker said he didn't realize he put a foot long gash in the skin?
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 7:53:43 AM EDT

Originally Posted By mvp:
The ramp worker said he didn't realize he put a foot long gash in the skin?



he said he didn't realize he dented the aircraft, pressure made the dent into a crease and then into a hole.

at least the guy had the intestinal fortitude to 'fess up.
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 7:54:20 AM EDT
Thanks CavVet!

I will be getting on an Alaska Airlines flight next Friday, and I hate flying as it is. So, I thank you for making my nervousness more intense!
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 7:58:40 AM EDT
I havent flown Alaska since the vbaggage handlers all got fired, and I called them a lot to tell them why.


I think I will be calling them again today.

Link Posted: 12/28/2005 9:42:43 AM EDT
I have been loving how the news is spinning the whole UNion Baggage handler thing today.

Like It could not have occured to a UNion guy also?...Im more prone to think the UNion guys would cover up for eachother faster, or Protect a sloppy worker.
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 11:38:17 AM EDT
The airlines have been dumbing down the ramp personnel for years. Their cheaper to hire and easier to get rid of when you need to lighten expenses. Baggage handlers have to be the worst of the lot these days. I've literally seen them kick bags off the cart on to the conveyor when loading. You point it out to the terminal people and they just shrug their shoulders.

Accidents do happen when you have vehicles around aircraft. You have to have vehicles in close proximity of the aircraft to serve them. Loading and unloading cargo, baggage and consumables come to mind. Likewise you have to move them in tight quarters some times. I personally have seem aircraft "deliberately" towed into hangar doors, wash racks, and parked vehicles. In every case the walker said they tought it would clear. It happens. It is inexcusable to crunch a plane or even to think you've crunched one and not report it immediately.

I have to agree with 1GH1 though. Flying is very safe compared to riding the bus, driving a car or walking across the street. Have you seen how many hit and runs there are these days?
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 5:25:29 PM EDT
I was on that plane! It just dropped me off at Sea-Tac and was headed back to Kommiefornistan when the incident happened. A little too close for comfort.
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 6:53:05 PM EDT

Originally Posted By R-32:
I have been loving how the news is spinning the whole UNion Baggage handler thing today.

Like It could not have occured to a UNion guy also?...Im more prone to think the UNion guys would cover up for eachother faster, or Protect a sloppy worker.



I'm surprised you'd think that.
I'm more prone to think that the major reason for having a Union in the first place is to promote SAFETY on the job.
I think the incident would be LESS likely to happen in the first place, and not likely to be covered up because they would have safety and their jobs in mind.
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 7:06:11 PM EDT
And while you're busy being scared of flying, you'll get run over by a bus.

Shit happens.
Link Posted: 12/28/2005 8:54:07 PM EDT
Hole in plane, going into air, Bad. We all gotta go sometime, dont live your life in fear.
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