Southwest Airlines: Hole in fuselage
What: Southwest Airlines 737 en route from Nashville to Baltimore
Where: Charleston’s Yeager Airport
When: 6:30 p.m Monday July 13
Who: 126 passengers and five crew
Why: While en route, the cabin depressurized when a hole (metal fatigue?) approximately the size of a football appeared in the fuselage. The plane managed to land safely in Charleston West Virginia. The NTSB is investigating.
(News photos don’t look football sized, but it is sure big enough to see plenty of daylight through.)
George’s Point of View
The 737 is a true workhorse, built to land and takeoff almost without too much delay except to load and unload passengers.
I fly Southwest to Las Vegas all the time. It’s a short hop.
I must admit, that every time I fly in one of these planes I have begun to worry about the age and/or the fatigue of the structure. A trip like one from LA to Vegas, most times, is a beating on the passengers and the plane itself. My guess is that 4 out of 5 of these short trips encounter turbulence, sometimes bad turbulence. This beats up the plane. In this case, the plane being beaten up was manufactured in 1994. That’s a lot of years of turbulence abuse. Metal fatigue in these conditions is not surprising, and neither is it completely unexpected. An inspection on this plane last January revealed eight cracks in the frame that required repairs.
I’m just glad it was a BOEING, and that the pilot remained in control of the aircraft. And of course, it’s a good thing that Southwest is now inspecting all of their planes for fatigue. Last year Southwest was fined $7.5 million for overdue inspections. I hope this is not going to be a repeat of last year. All the timely inspections in the world aren’t going to make this plane any younger. Maybe it’s time to put this particular plane out to pasture.