Video: Hole forces emergency landing

updated 12/28/2005 1:50:39 PM ET 2005-12-28T18:50:39

About 20 minutes after takeoff, passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 536 to Burbank, Calif., felt their ears popping, then a loud noise shook the plane and oxygen masks dropped out of the ceiling as the plane descended suddenly.

“This was absolutely terrifying for a few minutes,” said passenger Jeremy Hermanns, a pilot who was returning home from a holiday visit with his parents when the incident occurred Monday.

A foot-long hole in the fuselage of the MD-80 jet en route from Seattle had caused the plane to lose cabin pressure at an altitude of about 26,000 feet, authorities said. None of the 140 passengers or five crew members was hurt, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Caroline Boren said.

The plane was quickly stabilized, but passengers spent 25 minutes tearful and anxious until a safe emergency landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

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

A ramp worker 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, Struhsaker said.

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

A Menzies Aviation spokesman, John Geddes, said Wednesday he had no immediate comment.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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