Southwest Airlines has inspected all its 737-300 jets and found no problems. Fuselage damage of the sort that forced Flight 2294 to make an emergency landing Monday is very rare.
Chris Dorst/The Charleston Gazette/AP
Southwest Airlines has completed inspecting its entire fleet of Boeing 737-300s – saying it found no problems – after a football-size hole ripped in the fuselage near the back of Flight 2294 and the cabin lost pressure Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating what happened.
"We've never had anything like this happen at Southwest, which is why we are working so closely with the NTSB and Boeing to figure out exactly why and how this occurred," says Marilee McInnis, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines. "We just don't know at this point."
It is very rare for the metal fuselage of a plane to be damaged in flight. The last major accident that involved a fuselage hole was on an Aloha Airlines flight in 1988. A small crack caused by a combination of corrosion and metal fatigue blew open in flight and took a large section of the roof with it. The hole reached from near the cockpit to just before the wing on one side. A flight attendant was sucked out and killed. Sixty people were injured but the plane did manage to land safely.
"That came as a great surprise, but once people figured out what was happening with corrosion, they changed the inspection procedures to be sure that wouldn't happen again," says Clint Oster, an aviation analyst at Indiana University at Bloomington. "We really haven't had any sort of metal fatigue or metal failure kinds of accidents since then."