Entries in Flight 812 (2)


Southwest Airlines Flight 812 Default May Have Been in Manufacturing Process

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- ABC News has learned the problem that ripped a hole in the roof of a Southwest Airlines jet on April 1, may have started way back on the assembly line more than a decade ago.

After the incident, investigators found widespread cracking in the metal, the initial thought -- metal fatigue, a result of the plane's 39-thousand takeoffs and landings. But now it appears it could be a problem with production.

The plane was manufactured in 1996 and investigators are focused on rivets, thousands of metal pins that hold the pieces of an airplane together. The concern is that, in the area that failed, those pieces were not held together as they should have been. Sources say some of the rivet holes were not sized correctly and that the two pieces were not fastened together tight enough at the seam. Over time it's believed that stressed the area and resulted in the cracking.

Even as the investigation continues, the damaged plane has been patched and it's expected to go back into service.

After this incident, Boeing ordered inspections of the nearly 600 similar 737's worldwide, but only 190 were required to have inspections right away. Boeing tells ABC News Friday that 75 percent of those have been looked at and only five percent of all Southwest jets were found to have slight cracks. Sources say most of those five planes were built about the same time as the aircraft that came apart.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Hole Forces Southwest Plane to Make Emergency Landing

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (file)(YUMA, Ariz.) -- The ceiling of a Southwest Airlines plane out of Phoenix tore open in mid-air Friday, prompting a sudden loss of cabin pressure, a rapid descent and an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Ariz.

"My husband who was sitting right underneath this could look up and see a hole in the roof of the plane, and could see the sky up there, which was a little disconcerting," passenger Sandra Haros told KTAR, an ABC News Radio affiliate in Phoenix.

Southwest Airlines reported no customer injuries aboard Flight 812, but said a flight attendant suffered a "minor injury upon descent."

The Southwest flight, a Boeing 737, had taken off from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport around 3:45 p.m. local time, bound for Sacramento, Calif., with 118 passengers on board.

Flight attendants had just taken drink orders when passengers reported hearing loud pops. Soon, the roof opened up. Astonished passengers described a gaping hole, perhaps three to four feet long and a foot wide, right next to the luggage compartment.

The plane suffered a rapid decompression, oxygen masks popped out and the plane went into a dive, according to passengers and officials. The Southwest pilots radioed air traffic control, declared an emergency, and began a rapid descent -- quickly diving to a lower altitude so passengers would be able to breathe on their own.

The jet plunged from 36,000 to 19,000 feet in just one minute. Within five minutes, it reached the safer altitude of 11,000 feet before landing safely at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station/International Airport at 4:07 p.m. Friday.

What caused the hole in the plane's fuselage was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching a formal investigation into the incident, and that an "in-flight fuselage rupture" led to the drop in cabin pressure aboard the plane.

Southwest Airlines said Saturday that it will take 81 planes out of service to inspect them for metal fatigue. The airline operates nearly 550 aircraft.

Boeing and the FAA also were investigating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio