Southwest Flight 2294 made a safe landing at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia after a hole appeared in the fuselage of the aircraft, causing the plane to decompress. The flight, heading from Nashville to Baltimore, diverted to Yeager after the hole appeared in the ceiling of the cabin.
No one appears to have been injured by the situation, but a hole is a serious situation, and an investigation will determine how such a thing could happen. We’ll have more as the story develops.
Southwest issued an official statement on its blog moments ago. It includes the following points:
- All 126 passengers and crew of five onboard landed safely and are awaiting a replacement aircraft in Charleston that will take them to Baltimore/Washington International Airport later this evening.
- Southwest Airlines is sending its maintenance personnel to Charleston to assess the aircraft, and the airline will work with the NTSB to determine the cause of the depressurization.
- According to initial crew reports, the depressurization appears to be related to a small-sized hole located approximately mid-cabin, near the top of the aircraft.
Much as we like Southwest, and we won’t speculate on what may have been an unforeseeable accident, we must remember that in March of 2008, Southwest removed 38 aircraft from service after allegations it had violated FAA regulations. In March of 2007, the airline reported to the FAA that it had not done required fuselage checks on 47 jets. Some versions of the Boeing 737 are vulnerable to cracks just above and below the windows.
Documents at the time alleged that the airline flew at least 117 of its planes in violation of mandatory safety checks. In some cases, the planes flew for 30 months after government inspection deadlines had passed and should have been grounded until the inspections could be completed.
Update(10:14PM EST): Southwest announced via Twitter it would be inspecting all 181 737-300s as a precaution overnight with minimum impact on their schedule for tomorrow. Here is another, better picture of the hole in the fuselage than the one featured above.
(Thanks to AircrewBuzz for tipping us off to this story.)