Ground Crews Failed To Close External Power Hatch
Ground workers at Zihuatanejo Airport in Ixtapa, Mexico have
some explaining to do, after an Alaska Airlines flight bound for
Los Angeles made an unscheduled landing in Puerta Vallarta
Saturday, due to an unexplained vibration.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports once the Boeing 737-900
(file photo of type shown above) landed, crews discovered workers
in Ixtapa had failed to close the small hatch covering the external
power hookups in the aircraft's nose.
Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy said the plane's pilots
thought the door was the cause of the problem, and made the
decision to land out of concern the six-inch-square door might
separate from the plane, and be ingested into an engine.
Aric Weiker, one of 173 passengers onboard the flight, said
people knew something was up when the plane "made a sharp turn and
headed in a direction that was not Los Angeles."
"He (the pilot) said the reason we were landing was if the door
flies off it could cause problems," Weiker added.
The maintenance door covers connections for power and
communications hookups for when the plane is parked at a gate. On
the 737-900, it is located below the copilot's side windscreen.
The plane arrived in Los Angeles at 9:25 pm local time Saturday
night, about 180 minutes later than originally scheduled. Weiker
said passengers were kept on the ground in Puerto Vallarta while
ground crews inspected the plane for signs of possible damage.
The incident is another black mark against Menzies Aviation, the
private firm hired by Alaska Airlines in 2005 to take over ground
and maintenance operations at most of its gates, including those at
In a highly publicized December 2005
incident, a ground worker at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
accidentally punched a small dent in the fuselage of a parked MD-80
-- and failed to report the
accident. Once the plane took off, that small crease
grew into a larger one, leading to a hole in the plane's fuselage
that caused a loss of pressurization in the passenger cabin.
The plane was able to return to SeaTac safely... but in the days
that followed, four other depressurization incidents on Alaska
planes led the airline to conduct a safety review, and inspect its
entire fleet of aircraft. The airline found no links between those
In January 2006, a parked aircraft was damaged by errant ramp
workers at Sea-Tac. Two weeks after the decompression incident,
another aircraft made an emergency landing at SeaTac due to another
unexplained vibration. Crews discovered a maintenance worker had
failed to close a landing gear door after replacing a taxi