Jetway damages plane at Sea-Tac Airport


by Heather Graf / KING 5 News

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 10:43 AM

An investigation is now underway to determine what caused a jetway to drop about six feet as passengers exited a plane Tuesday morning at Sea-Tac Airport.

The Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix arrived at ten a.m.

"They were de-planing the aircraft, and as about 60 passengers went through, they started to notice and heard the alarms for the jetbridge, as it started to slowly lower," said airport spokesperson Perry Cooper.

He compared the drop of the jetway to what might happen when you let the air out of a tire.

No one was hurt, and passengers were instead unloaded through a stairway that was brought to the opposite side of the aircraft.

He says the jetway was built in 1985, and was among the oldest at Sea-Tac. 

It is owned and maintained by Southwest Airlines, but was one of three jetbridges that the Port of Seattle was in the process of trying to take ownership of and replace, for the sake of consistency and safety.

"All the jetbridges have a general lifespan, new ones can last about 30 years, used ones can last about 20 years," said Cooper.

Cooper says the Port of Seattle owns and maintains 54 or the 74 jetways at Sea-Tac.  It is up to the individual airlines, as part of their lease agreement, whether they want to own and maintain their jetways.

For instance,he says  Alaska Airlines prefers to own all of its je bridges and likes to maintain them with Alaska Airlines engineers.

Tuesday's incident has passengers taking a second look at the jetways they walk through each time they board an airplane.

"You know, usually you don't even give a thought to that, you just assume it's going to be fine, but I'll think about it next time," said passenger Lynne Fillipini.

When the jetbridge dropped, it also damaged the door of the aircraft it was attached to.  The damaged plane and jetway both sat on the tarmac for hours.

Cooper said that both Port of Seattle staff and the staff of the airlines that own their own jetways undergo intense training to operate the jetbridges.

In Tuesday's incident, operator error was not involved.  He says it's believed to be some kind of mechanical failure, but it will be up to Southwest Airlines engineers who maintain the jetway to determine the exact cause.