Nicholas Hoch was relaxing with a podcast onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 as it left Portland, Oregon, on Friday night. A few minutes later he was texting his mother and girlfriend to say he loved them and wondering whether he would die.
Hoch said he knew something was seriously wrong when the plane lights flickered shortly after takeoff, and a rush of air ripped off his hat. He would later learn the whoosh of wind also tore out some passengers’ earbuds and even ripped the shirt off a teenager’s back.
A blast reverberated through the plane after a fuselage section blew out shortly after takeoff, leaving a gaping hole. All 171 passengers and six crew on the Boeing 737 Max escaped unscathed but, for a moment, Hoch said it felt as though he might die. “I started to text my loved ones,” he said.
A “mini boom or mini explosion” rattled and shook the plane, and then there was an instantaneous depressurization of the cabin, said Hoch, a 33-year-old Portland-based architect. “This white vapor or cloud just rushed through the plane.”
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Most of the passengers managed to stay calm, though a few became agitated, including a man traveling with two small children who “stood up and started to freak out,” Hoch said, speaking by phone. “I think we were just all super confused, concerned, terrified, really.”
Hoch said he was able to get his oxygen mask on quickly. “I think I was almost, in some ways, hyperventilating. There was a few moments where it was hard to catch my breath,” he said.
The pilots didn’t make any announcements, leaving Hoch and others unsure if they were about to crash. “The captain never came on the microphone until we actually landed,” he said. “That was part of the thing that made this more terrifying and intense.”
The plane landed 21 minutes after takeoff and was in the air for six minutes when it reached its maximum altitude, according to FlightRadar24.
Passengers were able to exit the aircraft normally via the jet bridge. “I thanked the pilot and shook his hand,” he said. “I can’t thank that guy enough.”
Hoch said he boarded another Alaska flight to Ontario, California, a few hours after his ordeal. “I didn’t feel great about getting on a plane, honestly, but I have some work and travel ahead of me.”
— With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein
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