An Alaska Airlines jetliner was struck by lightning just minutes before touching down in Cordova around 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27. The Boeing 737-700 was carrying 60 passengers, the Anchorage Daily News reported. No one was hurt in the incident.
The plane had not yet broken through a low cloud cover when lightning struck its left side, said passenger Steve Bambakidis, information technology director for Native Village of Eyak.
“I heard a loud bang and saw, right around the engine cowling, sparks and fire emanating,” Bambakidis told The Cordova Times. “There were no announcements, so, obviously, your head’s spinning as to what the scenario could be.”
This wasn’t the first aerial mishap for Bambakidis, who previously experienced a compressor stall while flying as a passenger out of Portland, Ore. However, this did little to allay his concerns.
“I would say my knowledge of aviation probably made me a little more panicked,” Bambakidis said. “Coming in and out of Portland is one thing. Coming in and out of Alaska — anywhere in Alaska — because of the terrain and the amount of water you cross, is much more challenging.”
The Alaska Airlines jetliner banked left and landed normally at Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport. As the plane touched down, passengers shared a palpable sense of relief, Bambakidis said.
After the incident, the plane was taken out of service and flown to Seattle for mechanical inspection, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Bambakidis praised the good judgment of the airline and its staff in responding to the incident.
“They showed an abundance of caution, instead of just saying, ‘Oh, everything’s fine,’ and taking off again,” Bambakidis said. “I like that perspective of ‘safety first.’ … Kudos to the flight staff, the pilots and the cabin crew. Everybody handled it very professionally.”