Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Loses Engine Cowling

  • Alaska 737-800

    Alaska Airlines

    IATA / ICAO Code:
    AS / ASA

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub (s):
    Anchorage International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Portland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

    Year Founded:


    Ben Minicucci

    United States

Yesterday morning, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 returned to Seattle shortly after it departed from the Pacific Northwest air hub. An unusual vibration on the side of the aircraft was cited as a factor in this decision, with footage circulating on social media also showing that some of the twinjet’s left engine cowling came loose.

Not the longest flight

According to Fox, the service in question was bound for San Diego, California. However, a quick look at tracking data from shows that the flight only got as far south as Mount Rainier before turning back towards its departure airport. As already established, an ‘unusual vibration’ prompted the diversion.


While returning to a flight’s departure airport is a fairly standard procedure under such circumstances, things took a slightly more dramatic turn upon arrival back in Seattle. Indeed, multiple passengers on the flight, which only managed to climb as high as 12,975 feet and was in the air for just 27 minutes, shared striking footage.

As seen in the tweet above, these clips showed part of the 737’s left-hand engine cowling coming loose, before eventually tearing off as the aircraft slowed down on Seattle’s 3,627-meter-long runway 16L. This concrete-paved strip was then briefly closed to allow the associated debris to be swept clear of the path of other aircraft.

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Second time lucky

Despite the dramatic nature of the footage that has emerged of the incident, no harm came to anyone onboard the Alaska Airlines flight AS558. Once safely on the ground, the affected aircraft was taken out of service, with a replacement being sourced to allow the passengers to continue their journey to San Diego as planned.

The flight’s scheduled departure time yesterday was 07:25, with its arrival in southern California planned to take place just under three hours later at 10:19. Data from FlightRadar24 suggests that the replacement aircraft eventually took to the skies at 11:10, arriving just over three hours behind schedule at 13:22. Simple Flying contacted Alaska Airlines, with a spokesperson confirming in summary that:

“Alaska Airlines Flight 558 from Seattle to San Diego on Monday morning reported an unusual vibration on the left side of the aircraft soon after departure. The aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely. Part of the metal paneling that covers the engine, called the cowling, detached from the aircraft when it landed. “

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The flight and aircraft involved

Alaska Airlines flight AS558 is a daily scheduled domestic service that originates at its Seattle – Tacoma International Airport (SEA) hub. Its destination is San Diego International (SAN), which serves as a focus city for the carrier.

As mentioned earlier, it typically has a scheduled departure time of 07:25. However, Wednesdays see an exception to this rule, with the flight due to push back at 07:00. Alaska Airlines faces competition from Delta on this route.

The aircraft originally rostered to operate flight AS558 yesterday was N293AK. According to data from, this Boeing 737-900ER is 3.92 years old, and has 178 seats across three classes. The flight had a reported 176 passengers and six crew onboard, making it rather well filled. Its replacement was N283AK, another 178-seat 737-900ER that clocks in at 4.74 years old.

What do you make of this incident? Have you ever experienced a similar diversion? Let us know your thoughts and recollections in the comments.

Sources:,, Fox

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