Passenger Nearly Sucked Out Of Horizon Airliner

A passenger was nearly sucked out of a Horizon Air plane 14,000 feet over Olympia this morning when a window blew out while the plane was flying from Portland to Seattle.

The passenger, identified as Gale Sears, 38, whose hometown was not immediately available, was taken to Highline Community Hospital near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He was treated for shock, cuts on his hands and other minor injuries and released. No other passengers were injured.

The plane landed safely at Sea-Tac Airport.

Port of Seattle Fire Department medics at the airport treated Sears before he was taken to the hospital in a private ambulance, said Rachel Garson, an airport spokeswoman.

It wasn't known what caused the window to blow out of the twin-engine Fairchild Metro III turbo-prop, which was carrying 18 passengers and two crew members. The pilot took the plane down and managed to land it safety at Sea-Tac at 8:50 this morning, said Horizon Air spokeswoman Nancy Hamilton.

Sears was seated next to the window in the second row on the right side of the plane when the window popped out, Hamilton said.

``He was right at the window. The question is how far'' he was pulled out, said Hamilton. ``I don't know to what degree.''

``The window was blown out. . . . Nothing hit the window,'' said Hamilton. ``It was a completely clean break. As far as we know, it's an isolated incident. We're trying to determine what caused it. We're going to check all of the windows on the aircraft.''

The plane involved was new and Horizon plans to check the windows of all its 33 Fairchild Metro III planes, Hamilton said.

Flight 2300, which left Portland at 8 a.m., was scheduled to arrive in Seattle at 8:50 a.m. The flight was full.

The window blew at 8:45, and ``the crew then did an emergency descent according to emergency procedures and passengers were given oxygen,'' Hamilton said. Emergency vehicles were waiting to help as the plane landed.

Sears was flying to Seattle to continue to another city, but it was not immediately known what his final destination was.

Horizon Air has been using Fairchild Metro III planes for eight years. Horizon Air operates flights between Portland and Seattle every half hour.

A secretary at Fairchild Aircraft Corp. in San Antonio, Texas, said the company hadn't been notified about the accident and had no information.

The Federal Aviation Administration sent investigators to Sea-Tac right after the plane landed, said Mitch Barker, FAA spokesman.

He said cases of windows blowing out of airplanes are infrequent. He said he heard no reports of difficulty controlling the plane after the incident.

The National Transportation Safety Board office in Seattle said an investigator was sent to the airport to investigate the incident.

-- Times staff reporters Dave Birkland, Polly Lane and Peyton Whitely contributed to this report.