BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a tiny, but potentially deadly problem on several Southwest Airlines planes. A plane was forced to make an emergency landing when a hole blew open its roof at 36,000 feet.

Andrea Fujii reports dozens of planes are grounded — including some at BWI — as the airline has taken nearly 60 planes out of service for inspection.

The National Transportation Safety Board says small cracks have now been found in three more Boeing 737 aircraft, all flown by Southwest.

Those cracks are blamed for causing a five foot long, one foot wide hole to burst open in the fuselage of a plane Friday.

“Was the aircraft well-maintained and should it have been maintained better? That is exactly why we are here, to look at why this problem occurred,” said Robert Sumwalt, National Transportation Safety Board.

The rupture happened 18 minutes after take-off from Phoenix, causing a loss of cabin pressure.

Oxygen masks deployed, but the pressure change caused one flight attendant and one passenger to pass out.

The pilots quickly descended from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet in just four-and-a-half minutes.

“It seemed like we were dropping pretty fast, just all unreal.  I had to do a nice long prayer,” said David Smith, passenger.

Federal records show inspectors found multiple cracks in this plane’s fuselage last March; all were repaired.

Investigators are now pouring over the plane’s data recorders.

“It was a scary experience, but we got through it,” said one passenger.

The incident comes more than a year after a football sized hole appeared in a Baltimore-bound Southwest flight.  That plane made an emergency landing in West Virginia.

“This is a very fine and safe aircraft.  Twenty-five percent of the aircraft being flown today are 737s,” said Mark Rosenker, former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman.

Southwest mechanics have sawed out the problem section from that plane.  It is being shipped to Washington, where the NTSB will take an even closer look at it.

Only a couple of flights out of BWI Marshall are canceled Monday. Southwest expects all its planes to be back in service by Tuesday night.

In 2008, Southwest was fined more than $7 million for overdue inspections.  Southwest insists it rigorously and regularly inspects all its planes.

Comments (10)
  1. Doug says:

    Like cars,they’re made as cheaply as possible.
    Slammed together by disgruntle union workers.
    Next flight,bring a bible.

  2. JAY says:

    You should take your bible on all of your flights.

  3. Jay says:


  4. Rev John Elder says:

    When ever I fly I always wear my colur .But to me Southwest is the best what a great group of people in that company. Southwest I will be flying with you on the 22nd to Columbus and back on the 27 th .Keep up the great work

  5. SNF says:

    I dont think a Bible will stop a plane from crashing… Prayer yes, but a bible to stop an accident ummmmm probably not…

  6. Go O's says:

    You could use the bible to plug the hole that breaks open. That’s about it.

  7. RAYKEISHA says:

    I am just praying that there wont be any more problems nor a problem on May 13. Me and my 6 year old first trip and airplane ride to Disney. I hear so many good things about Southwest so that’s why i booked the flight hmmmmmm..

    1. Bola says:

      Looks like we were both in the air Sunday.  I visited The Soo Sault Ste Marie to see the ship locks. I’ll bet you made much eettbr time to your destination!! LOL. Nice sunset clouds and you have to love the sound of those engines! But there’s nothing cooler than your shadow.

    2. Kaori says:

      Oh, I love all of these. However, I really love the pink brbion in the first one; you are an artist at heart I can tell from your composition.The one that made me laugh was the 12:30 pm with the dogs. One looking longingly over (or maybe it’s through) the fence and the other staring at you as if to ask you ARE letting us out, right? And after our Sept wind storm I have full sympathies for now power and dead camera batteries.Deb’s last blog post..

  8. Abdo says:

    on: 03/28/2012 Open to: United States, Canada, Other Location You can enter at: Freckleberry Finds We highly rmnomeecd these active giveaways and events: Undercover Mama Nursing Tank Top

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE