Entries in Hole (2)


Feds Order 737 Inspections in Wake of Crack in Southwest Jet

David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government on Tuesday will order emergency inspections on 175 737 airliners and is rethinking its approach to plane inspections after a Southwest Airlines jet tore open in mid-flight Friday night, ABC News has learned.

Inspections will initially focus on 175 planes around the globe that make frequent takeoffs and landings. Eighty of the planes in question are in service in the United States, most of which are part of the Southwest Airlines fleet.

The government is particularly concerned about older 737-300, 737-400 and 737-500 jets that have taken off and landed more than 30,000 times. Jets that have accumulated many flight cycles are apparently more likely to develop the sort of fatigue cracks that may have caused the tear in the skin of the Southwest Boeing 737-300 last week.

As the nation's planes age, more jets could cause concern and require inspection for such fatigue cracks.

Inspectors use something called eddy current technology, passing an electric current through an aircraft's skin to look for small cracks. If any warning signs are detected, more sophisticated ultrasound and X-ray tools are then used for a closer examination. In some areas, a plane's skin can be as thin as a nickel.

Inspections of Southwest's 737-300 fleet have already discovered three more planes with fatigue cracks, officials said.

Investigators have cleared 57 of Southwest's 79 Boeing 737-300 jets to return to service, but at least 600 flights have been canceled since Friday's harrowing emergency landing.

Southwest flight 812, enroute from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif., was diverted to a military base at Yuma, Ariz., after a section of the plane's fuselage ripped open, depressurizing the plane and exposing the sky to passengers.

Last night, another Southwest flight was diverted. The flight, headed from Oakland, Calif., to San Diego, Calif., made an emergency landing because of a burning electrical smell.

Meanwhile, the five-foot section of the plane's fuselage that opened up Friday on flight 812 is headed back to Washington, D.C., for detailed microscopic analysis.

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