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Southwest cancels 300 flights to inspect planes after fuselage cracks open on Sacramento-bound flight

Southwest Airlines announced it was canceling hundreds of flights Saturday as inspectors look at their jets after a flight from Phoenix to Sacramento suffered a rapid loss of cabin pressure due to a hole in the top of the fuselage.

"Southwest expects to cancel approximately 300 flights today to accommodate the inspections," the airline said in a statement. "Customers may experience sporadic delays of up to two hours on some flights today. Customers should check the status of their particular flight or rebook their trip on southwest.com before heading to the airport."

Southwest said inspections involve 79 Boeing 737 aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating, and Boeing is assisting in the inspections.

Officials said the inspections would last several days, and that they were looking for any indications that other planes were suffering from "aircraft skin fatigue."

In the Friday incident, Southwest said a flight attendant suffered a minor injury during the steep descent, but no passengers were hurt on aborted Flight 812.

But some passengers told various media organizations that the injuries were more serious.

Photos: Hole opens up in plane during flight

Several passengers told the Sacramento Bee that a flight attendant suffered a head wound and that he and several other passengers lost consciousness. Passenger Christine Ziegler, 44, told the Bee she could see the flight attendant was bleeding from the head.

The Boeing 737 landed safely at 4:07 p.m. at Yuma International Airport, according to the FAA. The pilot "made a rapid, controlled descent" from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet after the loss of cabin pressure.

Southwest Flight Diverted

"Just unreal. All of a sudden there's like a little explosion. Sounded like an explosion at least. All of a sudden there's a sunroof in the middle of the plane. A big, old hole. You see daylight running through it," passenger David Smith told KCRA-TV.

On her Twitter feed, Shawna Malvini Redden, who identified herself as a passenger on the plane, posted photos of other passengers wearing oxygen masks dangling from the cabin ceiling.

"Loss of cabin pressure, hands down the scariest experience of my life," she wrote.

Firetrucks from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma met the flight, but no rescue was necessary, said Gen Grosse, corporate account manager for the Yuma County Airport Authority.

Upon landing, "the flight crew discovered a hole in the top of the aircraft," Southwest said in a news release.

"You can see daylight through it," passenger Brenda Reese told KCRA. Reese also said a few passengers passed out when they had trouble getting oxygen from their masks.

Flight attendants were "amazing" in helping everyone out, she said.

Passengers said they cheered when the plane landed.

Photos: Hole opens up in plane during flight

More than a dozen Southwest Airlines flights at LAX canceled

Passenger describes 'sunroof' opening up during flight

--Michael Finnegan and Shelby Grad

Photos: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (27)

Everytime I see an airline grounding their airplanes for inspections after something like this happens makes me laugh. The 737 is one of the best built aircraft out there this days. However most 737s are used for short flights for the most part. They land and take off several times per day as oposed to aircraft that fly longer distances. The problem with that is the airframe is subject to a lot more stress under those conditions. That being said they require more inspections than say a 747 would need with the same amount of hours or landing and take off cycles. So my point here is those inspections should have been done before an aircraft gets to the point that its skin is blowing apart in the air. The people who work on these aircraft do a fantastic job. But we are in an age when even airlines are outsourcing work now. bottom line here. " you get what you pay for"

Oh No! I am scheduled to fly out of LA on Monday to SFO...


Pretty scary, I wonder if any sabotage was done to the plane?

Read about Aloha Airlines Flight 243 decompression accident in 1988. That was also 737.

After reading today that Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, just had his pay almost doubled, despite a loss in profits last year . . . well, it makes me wonder where our priorities are.

These pilots and crew deserve a VERY large raise!

This is when the pilot and crew earn their money.

I was just on a SWA flight from Nashville to LAX last Sunday night and noticed the fuselage mid cabin above me (over the baggage racks) was creaking and popping like I'd never heard before on take off and landing only. I know the plane contracts and expands a bit from pressure, but I'd never heard noise like this before. It makes me wonder...

OMG........i'm flying from burbank to oakland this week. needless to say, i more than a little scared now. thank god they landed safely.

Just to let you know that most likely this plane was sub-contracted out or outsourced labor to do skins on airplanes. The employer often times sub out to inferrior subs over seas to cut costs. The FAA / government people okayed the airlines to outsource and yes again sold us the people out. Demand these airlines bring back these outsourced inferrior competition jobs now!

Well, if you look at all the problems southwest has had lately its hard not to compare them to valujet in the 90's.
like valujet, southwest has incurred numerous fines over safety and repair the last few year. coupled that with quick turnarounds the workers are forced to make due to southwest's tight scheduling and the domino effect a delayed flight causes.

everyone wondered how valujet could offer such low fares. we the public didn't know how bad thing were there until after the crash, when the safety problems and government concern were were open to the public

im afraid

I often get time to watch planes land at LAX and for years watched planes come in and out of Burbank. I must say that the jockeys who fly Southwest's 737's can be a bit rough on their birds. They do a lot more swopping than any other carrier and also do the most go-arounds. Airlines today push their pilots way too much and one of these days it could lead to a disaster.

The article states, "But some passengers told various media organizations that the injuries were more serious," yet in every account I've heard about this, including the instant article, it says the only problems were the flight attendant's head cut and a couple of passengers' inability to get their oxygen quickly enough during the rapid decent, causing them to momentarily black out (a routine but passing symptom of hypoxia), neither of which is even a moderately serious injury. Where's the substantiation for the statement?

Southwest is one step above taking the Greyhound.

Edd, what real info do you have that SWA has contracted to get their maintenance inspections performed overseas besides talking points written by others? How do they get these short-range aircraft to Europe or Asia to get this done? Don't you imagine that some of the most frequent travelers on a given airline are the employees themselves, from CEO on down? You think they might hope that the aircraft they and their families fly in are safe? You going to send your wife out on a flight that looks risky?

No, the pilots won't get a raise. Aircrews have experienced phenomenal lowering of their rates of pay over the past few decades and have seen their work hours extended into the unsafe zone. This emergency descent is something that almost 100% of pilots and flight attendants have never experienced except in simulators. Yet, like Capt. Sully and his crew, these folks operated like a well-oiled machine. Sully wasn't a hero, he was a professional and he did what any airline pilot would have done being put into the corner he was in. Next time you think a cabin attendant is just an airborne waitress, try to imagine Janie down at Sizzlers reacting to something like this. Then act surprised when you find out they make about the same. You often get more than you pay for.

Southwest is one of the most diligent airlines flying today. Yet they, like all of the carriers, are victims of a customer mentality that demands everything but is unwilling to pay a buck more. Keep searching for that "lowest price possible" ticket while you say "you get what you pay for."

The writer is correct when he mentions that 737s go through a lot more pressure cycles than, say, a 747. Even though every airline is aware of this and periodic safety checks take this data into account, the science isn't perfect. Sometimes the molecules just untangle. But do you really laugh, Rob? You ever had a flat tire on your well-maintained car? Stuff happens.

Retired Captain, TWA

@ Reg- i wonder if it was the same plane that you heard the sounds from. you can see in the picture above where the hole was, does it look like the same place you heard the sounds from?
maybe you should contact the airline and tell them your story (or the faa?)...i would hope they would find the info crucial and important. if it is the same plane, it might give them a timeline and help them better understand the anatomy of this type of problem. if it was not the same plane, i would think they would want to pay closer attention to
one when they inspect it.

Judging from the winglets on this plane, it appears to be a 737-800, Boeing's newest model. Southwest does not outsource its maintenance. To the reader who posted that we should demand airlines bring their maintenance back offshore, just remember we're the one's who drove it offshore in the first place by refusing to put our money where our mouth is. It's easy to to fall into the "Walmart Effect." Everybody complains about jobs leaving, and low quality, but they keep buying stuff at Walmart (and flying airlines that service offshore, because it's cheaper.

Part of the problem is that many airlines are using "aged" aircraft. Many 737-400's are nearly 20 years old! No matter how much you maintain old aircraft, the airframe is subject to fatigue. We cannot expect old 737's to stay in our skies forever. The newer generation 737-800's and beyond have taken over. Also, I agree that maintenance cannot be "given away" and is critical to safety and of most importance as is the experience of the pilot. Sadly, maximum profits over safety and comfort of passengers has taken over every aspect of flight and travel.

You get what you pay for.

Being an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic). They have inspection requirements that would catch this if complied. Most airlines have quick tunaround inspections and outsource any A or C checks. Doesnt matter if they have a higher cycle count. Times and cycles should still be logged and they should know x amount of cycles til an NDT or visual inspection. Anywho possible pressure on mechanics to pencil whip the problem, because we all know AOG (Aircraft on ground) do not make money for airlines. So lets get those mechanic jobs back in the US. Most of business aviation mechanics are american, at least the domestic airlines should be too..



google ' Southwest Airline outsourced maintenance work '

Repairs and engine work done in third world countries..

That would make an interesting list of the airlines that do and don't outsource mechanical work. I know which one I'd fly.

Southwest Airlines .
We give you peanuts , free soda sodas and one checked bag . But now we have added a sunroof too!

I am also scheduled to fly out of LA on Monday to SFO, will it still be save?

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