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Southwest Airlines Acts Quickly Following Aircraft DamageApril 4, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
Southwest Airlines reported that it is working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the cause of damage to one of its Boeing 737 aircraft, which made an emergency in-flight landing during a Sacramento-bound flight from Phoenix, on Friday, April 1, after the cabin depressurized suddenly due to a hole in the aircraft cabin.
The airline said it worked with engineers from Boeing to further assess the damage to the aircraft and to develop an inspection regimen to look more closely at 79 of its Boeing 737 aircraft which are covered by a set of Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Directives aimed at inspections for aircraft skin fatigue. Those aircraft will be inspected over the course of the next several days at five locations.
Southwest said it expects to cancel approximately 300 flights to accommodate the inspections. Customers may experience sporadic delays of up to two hours on some flights, Southwest said. Customers should check the status of their particular flight or rebook their trip on southwest.com before heading to the airport.
“The safety of our customers and employees is our primary concern,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We are working closely with Boeing to conduct these proactive inspections and support the investigation. We also are working aggressively to attempt to minimize the impact to our customers’ travel schedules today.”
The 118 passengers onboard Southwest flight 812 have received a full refund along with an apology and two complimentary roundtrip passes on Southwest for future flights.
Southwest said preliminary reports indicated the aircraft lost pressure and oxygen masks were deployed shortly after takeoff from Phoenix. After the plane landed safely in Yuma, CA, the crew confirmed that there was a hole in the top of the aircraft, located approximately mid-cabin. One flight attendant was treated at the scene for a minor injury, as was at least one passenger. No injuries required transport to the hospital. The company arranged for a Southwest Airlines aircraft to transport the customers on flight 812 from Yuma to Sacramento.
As of 4 p.m. central time on Sunday, April 3, 19 Southwest planes had undergone the intense inspection with no findings, and those planes have been returned to service. In two other airplanes, the testing did detect small, subsurface cracks. Further evaluation and potential repairs will be necessary before those planes are returned to service, Southwest said.
Inspections of the remaining aircraft in the sub-fleet will continue for the next few days. As inspections are completed with no findings, those planes will continue to be put back into service today and Monday. The airline anticipates completing the inspections by late Tuesday. The 79 aircraft designated for the additional inspections were designed differently in the manufacturing process.
In an update, Southwest said it will continue with its cooperation in the ongoing investigation being led by the NTSB. It also advised customers should to continue to check flight status at www.southwest.com for any changes to their flights as a result of inspections and out-of-service aircraft.