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Korean Air Boeing 737 Max 8 Makes Emergency Landing

Korean Air Flight KE189, a Boeing 737 Max 8, was en route from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport to Taichung International Airport in Taiwan when a pressurization system malfunction caused the aircraft to plummet over 26,900 feet in just 15 minutes. This incident resulted in 17 passengers being taken to medical facilities upon landing. No severe injuries were reported and all affected individuals were later discharged.

Korean Air Boeing 737 Max 8 Makes Emergency Landing

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Approximately 30 minutes post-departure, while cruising over Jeju Island, the aircraft’s pressurization system malfunctioned.

This system is crucial for maintaining cabin pressure at safe levels especially at high altitudes where the atmospheric pressure is lower than at ground level.

The malfunction triggered a rapid descent from an altitude of 30,000 feet to 9,000 feet (7,600 meters or about 25,000 feet drop) within just five minutes. This sudden drop subjected passengers to severe discomfort due to the change in cabin pressure.

Many passengers experienced distress including eardrum pain and hyperventilation. Video footage from the cabin showed oxygen masks deploying and passengers in visible distress.

Reports indicated that 15 passengers suffered from symptoms related to the pressure change including eardrum pain and hyperventilation and 13 required hospitalization.

The flight crew managed to safely land the plane back at Incheon International Airport. The immediate response from cabin crew involved securing the meal service, ensuring passengers were using oxygen masks and attempting to calm those in distress.

Once on the ground, 17 passengers received medical evaluations. There were no severe injuries and all passengers were later discharged from medical facilities.

Affected passengers were accommodated on another flight to Taichung the following day. This flight was delayed by approximately 19 hours due to the incident.

Earlier in the year, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 experienced a severe pressurization failure when a door plug came off at 4,900 meters.

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER encountered extreme turbulence causing an altitude change and resulting in one fatality and over 100 injuries.

Korean Air flight KE189 took off from Incheon International Airport (ICN) in Seoul at approximately 4:45 PM local time. The destination was Taichung International Airport (RMQ) in Taiwan.

The aircraft involved was a Boeing 737 Max 8, a model that has faced scrutiny due to previous incidents involving its systems.

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About 50 minutes into the flight, while cruising over Jeju Island, the aircraft’s pressurization system signaled an abnormality.

With the aircraft dropping from its cruising altitude to a lower, safer altitude of around 10,000 feet within 15 minutes. This descent was necessary to ensure the cabin pressure could be maintained without supplemental oxygen at the lower altitude.

Oxygen masks were automatically deployed as the cabin pressure dropped providing passengers with necessary oxygen.

Many passengers experienced severe discomfort, including ear pain and nosebleeds, due to the sudden change in pressure.

Children were crying and several passengers were hyperventilating, indicating the distress caused by the rapid descent.

The flight attendants remained seated during the descent, likely following emergency protocols to ensure their safety and ability to assist passengers once the aircraft stabilized.

The flight did not continue to its intended destination. It was diverted back to the departure point. The situation stabilized enough to proceed to Taichung, where it landed safely.

Korean Air issued an apology to all passengers affected by the incident. The airline addressed its commitment to passenger safety and promised support including accommodation, meals and transportation arrangements for the affected travelers.

Flight Details

  • Airline: Korean Air
  • Flight Number: KE189
  • Aircraft: Boeing 737 Max 8
  • Origin: Incheon International Airport, South Korea
  • Destination: Taichung International Airport, Taiwan
  • Departure Time: 4:45 PM KST, June 22, 2024
  • Passengers: 125

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