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Southwest flight makes emergency landing, 'hole' found on top of jet

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Southwest flight makes emergency landing, 'hole' found on top of jet


By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY




- UPDATED: 10:17 p.m. ET


A Sacramento-bound Southwest Airlines flight declared an in-flight emergency this evening and diverted to Yuma, Ariz., because of "rapid decompression in the cabin," The Arizona Republic reports.


The Sacramento Bee writes "Southwest Airlines Flight 812 made a rapid descent to 11,000 feet after the incident occurred and later landed safely at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station/International Airport at 4:07 p.m. (7:07 p.m. ET), FAA spokesman Ian Gregor wrote in an email."


Southwest issued a statement shortly after 9:30 p.m. ET, saying:


Southwest Airlines Flight 812, the scheduled 3:25 pm departure from Phoenix to Sacramento today, diverted to Yuma, Ariz due to loss of pressurization in the cabin. Upon safely landing in Yuma, the flight crew discovered a hole in the top of the aircraft. There are no reported Customer injuries. One of the Flight Attendants, however, received a minor injury upon descent.


Sacramento's KCRA TV reports that "the plane descended 16,000 feet in a minute, according to the flight-tracking website called flightaware.com."


There were 118 people on the flight, which had taken off from Phoenix en route to Sacramento. The aircraft involved was a Boeing 737-700, according to flightaware.com.


The Associated Press writes Gregor "says the cause of the decompression isn't immediately known."


Several passengers described the hole to the various media sources reporting on the incident.


"You can see daylight through it," a passenger identified as Brenda Reese is quoted as saying to KCRA by cellphone.


According to AP, Reese tells the station that a few people on board passed out "because their oxygen wasn't working. It was scary."


Another passenger on the flight -- identified only as "Cindy" -- describes the scene to Sacramento's CBS 13.


"They had just taken drink orders when I heard a huge sound and oxygen masks came down and we started making a rapid decent. They said we'd be making an emergency landing," CBS 13 quotes the woman as saying. "There was a hold (sic) in the fuselage about three feet long. You could see the insulation and the wiring. You could see a tear the length of one of the ceiling panels."


"An FAA inspector is en route to investigate," CNN reports on its website.


Southwest says in its release that it "will work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as they investigate this event."


Posted Apr 1 2011 10:17PM







See related story here:







Edited by Naim

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A couple more incidences yesterday:


Panic on Flight 547: Emergency landing as four people faint and flight attendants are hit by dizziness



Passenger jet flies through flock of large birds over Arkansas


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The Southwest incident - Boeing's newest Sky Interior version retrofitted :p

Jokes aside, glad no one was hurt too badly

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Southwest grounds about 80 planes after mishap




The Associated Press

5:01 a.m. Sunday, April 3, 2011


PHOENIX — Federal records show cracks were found and repaired a year ago in the frame of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 that made an emergency landing at an Arizona military base after a hole was torn from the passenger cabin.


No one was seriously injured Friday as the aircraft carrying 118 people rapidly lost cabin pressure and made a harrowing but controlled descent from 34,500 feet, landing safely near Yuma, Ariz., 150 miles southwest of Phoenix.


But passengers recalled tense minutes after a hole ruptured overhead with a blast and they fumbled frantically for oxygen masks as the plane descended.


Federal investigators arrived in Yuma Saturday and said they were cutting a piece from the fuselage of the stricken plane to determine how the fuselage rupture occurred.


Southwest grounded 80 similar planes to carry out inspections.


An Associated Press review of Federal Aviation Administration records of maintenance problems for the 15-year-old plane showed that in March 2010 at least eight instances were found of cracking in the aircraft frame, which is part of the fuselage. The records showed that those cracks were repaired.


It's not uncommon for fuselage cracks to be found during inspections of planes that age, especially during scheduled heavy maintenance checks in which they are taken apart so that inspectors can see into areas not normally visible.


The National Transportation Safety Board worked to determine what caused part of the fuselage to rupture.


NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said investigators will study the cut-out fuselage piece for fracture patterns and examine the plane's black box and flight recorders.


Southwest officials said the Arizona plane had undergone all inspections required by the FAA. They said the plane was given a routine inspection Tuesday and underwent its last so-called heavy check, a more costly and extensive overhaul, in March 2010.


Meanwhile, the airline grounded the 80 planes resulting in about 300 canceled flights Saturday, airline spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said.


Southwest operates about 170 of the 737-300s in its fleet of about 540 planes, but it replaced the aluminum skin on many of the 300s in recent years, Rutherford said. The planes that were grounded Saturday have not had their skin replaced, she said.


"Obviously we're dealing with a skin issue, and we believe that these 80 airplanes are covered by a set of (federal safety rules) that make them candidates to do this additional inspection that Boeing is devising for us," Rutherford said.


Julie O'Donnell, an aviation safety spokeswoman for Seattle-based Boeing Commercial Airplanes, confirmed "a hole in the fuselage and a depressurization event" in the latest incident but declined to speculate on what caused it.


A total of 288 Boeing 737-300s currently operate in the U.S. fleet, and 931 operate worldwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. "The FAA is working closely with the NTSB, Southwest Airlines and Boeing to determine what actions may be necessary," the FAA said Saturday.


The 737-300 is the oldest plane in Southwest's fleet, and the Dallas-based company is retiring 300s as it takes deliveries of new models. But the process of replacing all the 300s could take years.


A similar incident happened in July 2009 when a football-sized hole opened up in-flight in the fuselage of another of Southwest's Boeing 737s, depressurizing the cabin. The plane made an emergency landing in Charleston, W.Va. It was later determined that the hole was caused by metal fatigue.


In response to that incident, Southwest changed its maintenance plan to include additional inspections, which FAA reviewed and accepted, said John Goglia, a former NTSB member and an expert on airline maintenance. The details of the plan are considered proprietary and aren't made public, he said.


Four months before that emergency landing, Southwest had agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle charges that it operated planes that had missed required safety inspections for cracks in the fuselage. The airline inspected nearly 200 of its planes back then, found no cracks and put them back in the sky.


Friday afternoon, Flight 812 was only a few minutes into its trip from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif., and flight attendants were taking drink orders when the explosion rocked the cabin.


Shawna Malvini Redden covered her ears, then felt a brisk wind rush by. Oxygen masks fell, the cabin lost pressure, and Redden, now suddenly lightheaded, struggled to maneuver the mask in place.


Then she prayed. And, instinctively, reached out to the stranger seated next to her in Row 8 as the pilot of the damaged aircraft began a rapid descent from about 34,400 feet in the sky.


"I don't know this dude, but I was like, 'I'm going to just hold your hand,'" Redden, a 28-year-old doctoral student at Arizona State University, recalled Saturday, a day after her Phoenix-to-Sacramento flight was forced into an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Ariz., with a hole a few feet long in the roof of the passenger cabin.


Seated one row from the mid-cabin rupture, Don Nelson said it took about four noisy minutes for the plane to dip to less than 10,000 feet. "You could tell there was an oxygen deficiency," he said.


"People were dropping," said Christine Ziegler, a 44-year-old project manager from Sacramento who watched as a flight attendant and a passenger nearby fainted.


At an altitude above 34,000 feet, the Southwest pilots would have had only 10 to 20 seconds of "useful consciousness" to get their oxygen masks on or pass out, said John Gadzinski, an airline pilot and aviation safety consultant.


The depressurization wouldn't have affected the pilots' ability to control the plane as long as they had their oxygen masks on, said Gadzinski, president of Four Winds Consulting in Virginia Beach, Va.


"The fact that you have a breach hole doesn't affect the aerodynamics of the plane. The plane still flies exactly the same," he said.


He said the flight crew reacted well.


"The higher you are the less useful consciousness time you have," said Gadzinski. "It's a credit to the pilots that they responded so quickly."


The relieved passengers obviously thought so. When the pilot emerged after the landing, they "clapped and cheered," Redden said.


"If overhead bins weren't in the way, I'm pretty sure we would've given him a standing ovation," she said.




Associated Press writers Lien Hoang, Don Thompson and Adam Weintraub contributed to this report from Sacramento, Calif.; David Koenig contributed from Dallas; Joan Lowy from Washington, D.C.; and Mark Evans and Bob Seavey from Phoenix.




April 03, 2011 05:01 AM EDT


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I think we need to verify whether it was a 737-300 (Associated Press) or 737-700 (flightaware) :)

Edited by BC Tam

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Doubt Southwest installed winglets on their 737-300s. Anyway I trust Flightaware more than Associated Press.

Edited by alberttky

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Southwest did install winglets on few of their B733s,from what i've checked based on A.net photos.


And here's the photo of the ill-fated plane,snapped on last March:


Photo Copyright-Daniel J.Evans

Edited by Tamizi Hj Tamby

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3 April 2011 Last updated at 21:33 GMT

Holed Southwest Airlines plane 'had metal fatigue'


An examination of a US plane that developed a hole in its cabin roof in mid-flight has found evidence of metal fatigue in the fuselage.


The hole caused a sudden drop in cabin pressure, and Flight 812 from Phoenix to Sacramento was forced to make a steep descent and emergency landing.


The jet carrying more than 100 people landed safely in Arizona.


Owners Southwest Airlines cancelled 300 flights on Sunday to allow for inspections of 79 of its aircraft.


One flight attendant was slightly injured during the incident on Friday but no-one was seriously hurt.


There were 118 passengers and crew on board the 15-year-old plane.


Investigators said the rip began where two outer panels were riveted together, and that the area around it showed evidence of pre-existing cracking due to fatigue.


"We did find evidence of widespread cracking across this entire fracture surface," National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters.


The plane is one of the oldest in Southwest's fleet and has made thousands of flights, but the company said it had undergone all required inspections.


Describing the incident, passenger Brenda Reese said the plane had just left Phoenix when she heard a "gunshot-like sound".


Witnesses said a couple of people nearly passed out while scrambling for oxygen masks.


Aviation officials said the pilot made a controlled descent, dropping 8,000m (25000ft) from 11,000m in about five minutes.


The same thing happened to another Southwest jet in 2009. Then, metal fatigue was the cause.


The company changed its maintenance programme as a result, but before that incident Southwest Airlines paid millions of dollars to settle charges it was skipping inspections.


In 1988, cracks caused a hole to open in an Aloha Airlines plane over Hawaii. In that incident, a flight attendant died.


from the BBC

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4 April 2011 Last updated at 05:38 GMT

Small cracks found in three Southwest Airlines jets


Small, sub-surface cracks have been found in three more Southwest Airlines planes like those thought to have caused another to develop a hole in its cabin roof mid-flight, officials say.


The National Transportation Safety Board said it had been informed there were additional crack indications in the lap joints on the Boeing 737-300s.


Nineteen other 737-300s showed no problems and will return to service.


The plane with the ruptured fuselage landed safely in Arizona on Friday.


Some of the 118 people on board the flight, which had just taken off from Phoenix, reported hearing a loud bang as a 1.5m-long gash appeared.


The hole caused a sudden drop in cabin pressure, forcing pilots to make a controlled descent from 10,485m (34,400ft) to a military base. No-one was seriously injured, though a flight attendant was slightly hurt.


'New and unknown issue'


On Sunday, a section of the 737-300's ruptured fuselage was removed and sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington for in-depth analysis.


NTSB investigators also conducted inspections of other portions of the lap joint along the fuselage and found evidence of additional cracks.


Later, the federal agency said in a statement that it had been informed by Southwest that "crack indications in the lap joints have been identified on three airplanes they have inspected".


Southwest cancelled 600 flights over the weekend to allow engineers to carry out a special test developed by Boeing on 79 of its aircraft.


Tests on the 57 remaining jets are expected to be completed by Tuesday evening. Further flight cancellations are likely until all are back in the air.


The NTSB said Boeing would be drafting a "service bulletin" to describe the inspection techniques that they would recommend carrying out on similar planes with comparable flight cycles (take-offs and landings) as the one involved in the accident over Arizona, which was 15 years old.


There are 931 such models in service worldwide, 288 based in the US.


"What we saw with Flight 812 was a new and unknown issue," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's executive vice-president and chief operating officer.


"Prior to the event regarding Flight 812, we were in compliance with the FAA-mandated and Boeing-recommended structural inspection requirements for that aircraft," he added.


"We regret any customer inconveniences as a result of the inspections currently under way. Delays and cancellations are never the preference, however we are taking every precaution we can to ensure that our operation is safe."


Southwest changed its maintenance programme after metal fatigue caused a similar accident on another of its jets in 2009. Before then, the airline paid millions of dollars to settle charges that it was skipping inspections.


In 1988, cracks caused a hole to open in an Aloha Airlines plane over Hawaii. In that accident, a flight attendant died.


also from the BBC

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How is MH affected? The FAA issued a general advice to airlines operating the classics. Are MH schedules affected if aircraft are sent in for checks?

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Manufacturing Issues Suspected in Southwest Jet Rupture




Investigators increasingly are focused on manufacturing-related issues, rather than a possible design flaw by Boeing Co., as they strive to unravel what caused the midair fuselage rupture of a Southwest Airlines Co. jet earlier this month, according to government and industry officials.


The officials said it's too early to draw definitive conclusions, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators haven't issued any statements hinting at what they suspect. But areas that federal and industry experts are examining as part of the probe, according to these officials, include riveting techniques, fixtures used to hold parts of the planes during assembly and uses of sealants on the 15-year-old Boeing 737.


The plane suffered a rapid decompression and had a five-foot gash rip open in the upper part of its cabin, about four feet above the windows, while cruising at about 34,000 feet.


Nobody was seriously hurt and the twin-engine jet, with 122 people aboard, made an emergency landing at a military base in Arizona on April 1. But the incident prompted Southwest to temporarily ground and inspect 79 of its other older Boeing 737s, and it also sparked a round of swift inspections of about 100 additional aging Boeing 737 models worldwide.


Four other Southwest jets were found to have fuselage cracks requiring repairs, but at this point no similar problems have been discovered on other airline fleets.


The primary reason for emphasizing potential manufacturing-related lapses or problems, according to these officials, stems from the fact that a number of the Southwest planes with fuselage cracks were built around the same time. And jets flown by other carriers, even some with a larger number of takeoffs and landings that the Southwest plane with the hole, haven't shown any signs of structural weakness or fatigue.


So far, according to one official familiar with the investigation, investigators have spent the most effort to understand the manufacturing history of the Southwest planes that had significant cracking of their aluminum skins. The plane with the rupture had logged about 39,000 takeoffs and landings, substantially fewer than the point at which Boeing experts anticipated it could face serious metal fatigue.


But according to officials familiar with the investigation, it's still too early to know whether the suspect Southwest jets illustrate a possible quality-control or manufacturing problem of relatively short duration, or some other potential causes.


The stresses planes undergo each time their cabins pressurize and then depressurize during a trip are major factors in creating cracks and possibly causing metal fatigue.


Possible production problems were first reported on Saturday by ABC news.


Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt previously suggested that production issues were under heightened scrutiny. He told an industry conference in Miami earlier this month that the agency, among other things, was looking into "manufacturing techniques" along with Boeing. Mr. Babbitt said agency experts were examining existing aging-aircraft inspection rules and seeking to determine "are we looking at the right things?"


Eventually, more than 400 additional older 737 jets will have to be inspected around the globe, as a result of safety mandates by the FAA and foreign regulators.


On Saturday a Southwest spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation. She said the incident plane was still undergoing repairs, but the five others identified with cracks have been fixed and were returned to service.


Boeing officials have said that the particular fuselage design on the affected airplanes was changed when a new version of the model was introduced in 1993. The so-called 737 "Next Generation" is the type still being built today and Boeing has delivered more than 3,500 of those, according to company data.


The safety mandates issued by the FAA cover certain 737-300, 737-400 and 737-500 versions, and they kick in based on the number of takeoffs and landings planes have logged.


Over the years, the FAA and industry have developed a comprehensive set of inspection standards and procedures to identify and repair fuselage cracks on older planes before they can result in major problems. The April Southwest incident shocked the airline industry, surprised regulators and spooked many travelers because until it happened, Boeing had concluded that the plane didn't need to undergo detailed structural inspections on that part of its fuselage until much later in its life.


The planes under scrutiny feature a certain type of "lap joint" -- the area where Boeing and government investigators have said the structural cracks originated -- and surrounding strengtheners designed to prevent cracks from growing.


The twin-engine 737, the company's most popular jet and a workhorse for carriers around the globe, first entered service in 1968. Since then, the more than 6,600 have been completed at Boeing's factory in Renton, Wash., just south of Seattle, and more than 2,000 remain on order. The planes requiring inspection were built between 1993 and 2000.


Before reaching Washington state, however, 737 fuselage barrels are assembled at a factory in Wichita, Kan. That facility, now owned by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., a major aerospace supplier, was at the time a wholly-owned Boeing factory. Boeing spun off its commercial airplanes unit in Wichita in 2005.


On Friday, Boeing said it continues to work closely with the safety board and the FAA to determine what caused the April 1 event.


In its statement, the Chicago aerospace giant said that "to date, inspections have been completed worldwide on approximately 75 percent of the 190 airplanes affected" by mandatory inspection rules, and only the handful of Southwest planes have "shown small subsurface cracks." "Portions of the panels from those airplanes have been shipped to Boeing, and we are conducting analyses to validate the initial inspection findings."


According to Boeing, "no conclusions have been reached about the root cause of the inspection findings" or how they may relate to the April 1 event, and "any attempt to draw conclusions on either would be premature and speculative."

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