View Full Version : Alaska MD-80 returns with fuselage hole

Middle Seat
28th Dec 2005, 01:51
Didn't read about this today, but saw an overdramatic teaser for the news about it. :yuk:

from the paper:
SEATTLE - An Alaska Airlines jet with a foot-long hole in its fuselage was forced to make an emergency descent from 26,000 feet and return to Sea-Tac Airport Monday after the plane lost cabin pressure.

The MD-80 jet, which had been en route to Burbank, Calif., landed safely and none of the 140 passengers was hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating, as is Alaska Airlines.

And late Tuesday, the NTSB says a baggage handler confessed that he hit the plane with a baggage cart and didn't report it to anyone. The Port of Seattle will conduct an investigation into that worker, Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Bob Parker told KOMO 4 News.

An aviation expert who did not want to be identified told the Seattle P-I the damaged area of the plane would have been weakened by the ramp incident and the aluminum skin then likely ruptured once the jet neared its cruising altitude.

Had the plane’s skin been penetrated while the jet was still on the ground, the pilots probably would have received an indication of a problem before takeoff when they tried to pressurize the cabin, the expert said. The cabin of a commercial jetliner is usually pressurized to what a person would experience at about 8,000 feet above sea level.

It’s also possible the hole in the fuselage was so small that the plane’s instruments did not detect a problem when the cabin was initially pressurized, and the hole then grew much larger after takeoff, the person said.

Caroline Boren, a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines, declined comment on that report, saying only that the incident is under investigation. She did say the hole, measuring about 12 inches by 6 inches, was just aft of the top part of the forward cargo door on the MD-80. The hole was about four feet below the cabin windows, she said.

Before leaving for Burbank, the same plane had carried passengers to Sea-Tac Airport from Las Vegas. The pilots of that earlier flight did not report any problems, Boren said. The flight from Las Vegas landed at Sea-Tac at 3:18 p.m.

Alaska Flight 536 left the airport for Burbank at 3:54 p.m. The flight crew reported a loss of cabin pressure about 20 minutes into the flight, Boren said. Oxygen masks deployed for passengers and the pilots made a rapid descent as they are trained to do in such an emergency, she said. The plane landed at Sea-Tac at 4:53 p.m. Boren said.

The hole in the fuselage was found after the plane landed. The MD-80 was taken out of service and the passengers were later flown to Burbank on another Alaska Airlines plane.

Alaska Airlines’s baggage handling operations have not been without controversy in recent months.

Earlier this year, the airline eliminated more than 400 unionized baggage handling jobs at Sea-Tac Airport as part of a cost-savings move. That work was outsourced to Menzies Aviation, which is based in the United Kingdom.

Ignition Override
28th Dec 2005, 02:47
Whether with the older or the newer type of pressurization, even with a clear hole, it would probably not be noticed until climbout, when you glance at the needle which shows the cabin rate of climb, or feel it in your ears, or until a red annunc. and master warning lights says "cabin alt." or "cabin press." at about 10,000' cabin altitude.

Second topic: How much did Alaskan save after outsourcing dedicated staff/employee jobs? How many more problems resulted?

How much did this incident cost them?

Somebody tell us if the highly successful Southwest outsourced many gate agent, flt. attendant, ramp or pilot jobs. If not, could there be a good reason that Southwest employees still operate the airline?

28th Dec 2005, 09:20
How about neither management nor passengers knowing the difference between cost and value.

28th Dec 2005, 09:42
Bit worrying as we move to carbon fibre fuselage sections with their tendancy not to show damage.

28th Dec 2005, 11:30
Nice to see a newspaper report with logical facts for a change. The author should be congratulated as being one of the last of a dying breed.:D

28th Dec 2005, 12:22
A reporter living in Seattle is likely to family or friends working in the aerospace industry, and if he pays attention to the idle chatter, might have learned a thing or two about aluminum tubes.

28th Dec 2005, 14:30
Middle Seat

What is the source of your posted information? I like to be able to verify all details in some cases and I am not sure if anything has been excised from your posting.

Of course if these are your own words, please advise

Middle Seat
28th Dec 2005, 14:39
yikes, I inadvertently excised the by-line. It was published in the Seattle Times on Tuesday, December 27. Jennifer Sullivan was the reporter with the byline.

28th Dec 2005, 15:00
One cannot help but wonder if this (thankfully benign) Alaskan incident bears any relevance to the Cypriot 737 disaster.

28th Dec 2005, 16:24

"Absolutely terrifying" flight after ground-crew mistake

By Jennifer Sullivan and Melissa Allison
Seattle Times staff reporters

Alaska Airlines Flight 536 was 20 minutes out of Seattle and heading for Burbank, Calif., Monday afternoon when a thunderous blast rocked the plane.

Passengers gasped for air and grabbed their oxygen masks as the plane dropped from about 26,000 feet, passenger Jeremy Hermanns said by phone Tuesday.

"This was absolutely terrifying for a few moments," said Hermanns, 28, of Los Angeles. "Basically your ears popped, there's a really loud bang and there was a lot of white noise. It was like somebody turned on a leaf blower in your ear."

Though the MD-80 plane was quickly stabilized, he said, passengers spent the next 25 minutes tearful and anxious. An "acrid" odor of burning plastic overwhelmed the cabin, Hermanns said.

"A lot of people were very stunned," said Hermanns, who had been visiting Seattle with his fiancée for Christmas. "It was surreal."

When the 3:54 p.m. flight returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 4:53 p.m., passengers broke into applause before walking through the gate, sitting down and waiting for another plane, he said.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said baggage handlers had bumped the plane's fuselage with loading equipment and caused "a crease" in the side of the aircraft. The handlers are contract workers hired to replace unionized workers in May.

About 20 minutes after takeoff, the crease blew into a 1-foot-by-6-inch hole, said Jim Struhsaker, an NTSB senior air-safety investigator.

Few Cloudy
28th Dec 2005, 18:16
Ah! That's more like the level of reporting that we are used to! All the correct words are in there. I expect the lawyers (not our's) are buzzing around the "victims" by now...

28th Dec 2005, 21:18
if I were a passenger on that flight I would sue big time!

when you hire non union, unprotected labor and they make a mistake, they might just cover it up.

a union guy could crash his truck into a plane and ruin it ...he would be protected enough to be able to report it. the whole thing could have been avoided.


28th Dec 2005, 22:30
Daysleeper a few posts above made a very valid point seemingly overlooked.

Bit worrying as we move to carbon fibre fuselage sections with their tendency not to show damage.

This sort of occurrence, frequently carried out by ‘the invisible man’ is increasingly prevalent on today’s airfields. My company has had nearly thirty ground handling damage incidents THIS YEAR, which, on a fleet of about thirty aircraft is about one each. These have varied from bent doors, through dents outside of SRM limits, to full blown holes requiring days of repair time. Damage has been incurred all over the normal charter flying network and is not confined to one location, although MAN and LGW are particularly poor (subjectively).
They have, of course, been to ‘normal’ aircraft with all critical damage areas constructed from good old metal. We operate to all the normal charter destinations from the U.K. and can usually repair ‘on site’ sufficiently to get the aircraft back to maintenance.
Boeing claim to be incorporating ‘sensors’ to detect damage, but when the sensors detect damage out of limits the mind boggles at the thought of repairing carbon fibre structure in, let us say, Zakinthos with no facilities.

28th Dec 2005, 23:08
a union guy could crash his truck into a plane and ruin it ...he would be protected enough to be able to report it.

Or - he could do an obvious job that would prevent dispatch, but convey the message to an unpopular management that more contract concessions were desired (yes, it's happened, but the airline AND its union-"protected" jobs no longer exist.)

29th Dec 2005, 00:07
What kind of cost range are we talking would this damage set the airline back? Thousands? Millions?

29th Dec 2005, 00:12
Labor & material could be $50-100K (more if a frame were damaged)

But losing the use of a MD-80 for a week could be a lot more than that.

29th Dec 2005, 00:23
TR4A, they showed a video made by two young passengers on the flight on ABC news this morning, and subsequently interviewed the couple who had made the video. (In a coincidence, the female half of the couple had worked as a ramp agent.)

No passenger terror was evident on the video. The flight attendants were shown going up and down the aisle, reassuring passengers, smiling, even joking. The FA's looked completely non-plussed.

The video was probably made during the latter part of the descent, as the masks were dangling but nobody seemed to have them on. There was a modest round of applause at touchdown.

As for the rush of air, reminds me of the pressurization scheme in a Tupolev 104.

29th Dec 2005, 01:02
Your average low bid ramp service facility does not have the money for training.

As for the wages, if they're no better than what's generally available off-airport, there's not much loss to be felt if you get canned for denting an a/c -- a long way of saying you get what you pay for.

When an airline has its own crews, then there may be staff travel as an incentive to be careful.

29th Dec 2005, 01:25
if I were a passenger on that flight I would sue big time!

Yeah, I guess some folks are like that... :rolleyes:

Ignition Override
29th Dec 2005, 04:40
Very good job by the pilots and flight attendants.

By the way, this wholesale 'outsourcing' of airline staff has only just begun recently. As a result, safety might also be outsourced.

As we are all aware of how important weight and balance is, do the contract employees have a personal interest in the correct loading of the aircraft, or can their familiy members also fly at very modest prices, as happens with airline staff?

29th Dec 2005, 04:47
Contract handlers don't get flight benefits but the problem of ground equipment damage to a/c has been around forever, contract or not. I seem to remember one US carrier who had a policy based on the ground crew working as a team. If someone on your crew damaged an a/c, the whole crew was fired. (United?)

29th Dec 2005, 18:34
LA Times article (free registration likely required) (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-flight29dec29,0,6438981.story?coll=la-home-nation) The Alaska Airlines jet was parked at its gate when a baggage handler bumped his loading cart into the plane. Just a minor bump, he later told investigators; so minor, he said, he didn't even tell anyone about it at the time.

29th Dec 2005, 20:48
I heard on CNN that Alaska Air management is not happy with the company they chose to out source their ramp services to.

So far in America we have managed to out source maintenance and ramp service. What's next for the airline industry? :*

Trash Hauler
30th Dec 2005, 01:40
Union or non union, it is human nature to cover up mistakes.
It is up to management to foster the environment where mistakes are reported as soon as possible (particularly where the aircraft has been struck in some way).

Whenever a person has not reported something of this nature it strikes me that the work environment is not conducive to reporting - fear is at play.

30th Dec 2005, 02:15
A fellow (happens to have his PPL) on the plane wrote on his 'blog' about the incident immediately after.


The blog entry, receiving numerous comments, had some 'less than positive' comments to his entry, and he claims the IP address traces back directly to Alaska Airlines.


Let the Drama begin!

twenty eight
30th Dec 2005, 02:26
stolen from another forum

1st Jan 2006, 08:04
Jeremy Hermanns rather dramatic description of this depressurization on his blog site, has elicited a miriad of childishly uninformed comment. These acts of Bad Faith DO open the door for punative damages which can add several zeros to the settlement figures.
I’d think the CEO of AS owes a personal appology to Jeremy for these bad acts happening on his watch, and should probably post one here as well in hopes of mitigating this exposure if/when it comes in front of a jury.
Very American, I'm afraid