Aviation News

April 2, 2011

Southwest Grounds 81 Jets for Inspection Following Fuselage Rupture

Southwest Airlines grounded more than 80 aircraft early Saturday morning after one of its planes experienced an in-flight fuselage rupture on Friday, the airline said.

N632SW Southwest Airlines 737-300 fuselage hole

Hole in fuselage of N632SW. (Photo by @BluestMuse)

The incident happened between 3:30pm MST and 4pm MST when Southwest Airlines Flight 812, a Boeing 737-300 (N632SW) suffered a rapid decompression as a result of an in-flight fuselage rupture. A hole in the top of the aircraft, approximately mid-cabin, was clearly visible.

The captain of the aircraft immediately carried out a rapid but controlled descent from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet when the incident occurred and oxygen masks were deployed. A total of 118 passengers and 5 crew members were on board, and the plane safely landed at Yuma International Airport in Arizona. It was originally scheduled to fly from Phoenix, Arizona to Sacramento, California.

On early Saturday morning, hours after the incident, the Dallas-based airline announced it would ground a subset of its Boeing 737 fleet to carry out an “aggressive” inspection. “Southwest is working with Boeing on an inspection regimen for the 81 affected Boeing 737 aircraft in the fleet, which are covered by a set of Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Directives aimed at inspections for aircraft skin fatigue,” the airline said in a statement. “These aircraft will be inspected over the course of the next several days.”

Meanwhile, both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have joined the investigation to determine the cause of the incident, which the NTSB called an in-flight fuselage rupture.

None of the passengers and crew members on board the aircraft suffered serious injuries during the incident, although some of the passengers passed out due to a lack of oxygen. One of the flight attendants, however, received a minor injury upon descent while one passenger was also treated for minor injuries.