NTSB releases findings on Southwest Flight 2294

By | August 19, 2010

Southwest responded to the National Transportation Safety Board’s findings on the incident on Flight 2294 last July. For those of you who don’t recall, that was the aircraft that made a landing in Charleston, WV when a hole suddenly opened up in the fuselage. The photos at the time were disconcerting for anyone who flies. After all, we like to think of planes as solid objects, but they are metal tubes that we put under pressure.

The plane in question was delivered brand new to the airline on June 29th, 1994. At the time of the incident, the airplane had accumulated approximately 42,500 cycles(takeoffs/landings) and 50,500 hours. The report indicates the plane climbed to 35,000 feet, at which point the cabin altitude warning activated. Examination of the airplane afterward revealed fatigue cracking of the fuselage skin near the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer adjacent to the rupture. The fatigue cracking penetrated the fuselage skin and created an approximate 18-inch by 12-inch flap in the skin that depressurized the airplane.

A maintenance order was immediately issued by Boeing and since by the FAA mandating periodic external inspections for similar metal fatigue. Southwest commented on the release of the report that, “At Southwest Airlines, everything is secondary to Safety, which is the core of our operation.