NTSB Identification: SEA06LA033.
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Scheduled 14 CFR Alaska Airlines Inc.
Accident occurred Monday, December 26, 2005 in Seattle, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/29/2006
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-83, registration: N979AS
Injuries: 142 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The captain said that the airplane arrived late into Seattle, from its previous flight, and the new flight crew was waiting at the gate. After the airplane was chocked and the engines were shut down, the first officer immediately performed his preflight inspection. A ground baggage handler, who was driving a tug towing a train of baggage carts, said that he approached the airplane from aft to forward, but had to maneuver around another train of carts to get close to the belt loader. After loading the carts with baggage, he attempted to drive away. He stated, "I was hoping to make it out, but I felt my tug going against something. I immediately set my foot on the brakes and glanced at the body [in moderate rain] of the aircraft to see if there was any damage. It was a quick glance and I did not see any damage." He did not report the incident to anyone. The pilot said that the takeoff was normal. During the climb out, at approximately 26,000 feet, they heard a loud bang, and the cabin depressurized. He said that they put their oxygen masks on, and coordinated a descent to a lower altitude with Seattle Center. An uneventful landing was performed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington. Post landing examination of the fuselage revealed a 12 by 6 inch hole between the middle and forward cargo doors on the right side of the airplane. After the occurrence, the ground baggage handler confessed that he had "grazed the airplane" with a tug, while attempting to depart the vicinity of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The ground personnel baggage handler failed to maintain clearance from the aircraft with cargo handling equipment during ground operations and inadvertently damaged the airplane's pressure bulkhead which subsequently decompressed during climb to cruise.

Full narrative available

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