08/23/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan
Charleston, WV— Authorities from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) deemed metal fatigue to be the culprit responsible for a hole tearing open during a Southwest Airlines flight last year. The hole was discovered in the roof of one of the Dallas-based airline’s older jets, according to an August 19, 2010 Associated Press report.
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, Flight 2294, was reportedly en route from Nashville, Tenn. to Baltimore, Md. When the plane abruptly lost cabin pressure. Oxygen masks dropped and the pilot made the quick decision to perform an emergency landing in Charleston, W. Va.
While none of the planes occupants suffered any injuries in the incident, a 14-inch crack was eventually discovered in the roof of the Boeing. NTSB officials discovered the crevice in an area near the front of the tail fin, where two sheets of aluminum skin were connected. Three inches of the crack reportedly penetrated through the plane’s aluminum skin completely.
Boeing advised all airlines with 737s to inspect the top of the fuselage near the vertical tail fin approximately two months after the incident aboard Flight 2294, reports added. The FAA mandated such inspections shortly after.
Though the average age of Southwest Airlines planes is about 10.5 years, the Boeing used during Flight 2294 was purchased in 1994. The FAA also has strict regulations concerning the maintenance of commercial airliners and the “wear and tear” they face as time passes.
Southwest Airlines was fined in $7.5 million over its failure to inspect its aircrafts prior to flight. However, inspections of the top of the fuselage near the vertical tail fin were not required prior to the Flight 2294 episode.
According to Southwest spokesperson Brad Hawkins, “We’ve taken aggressive measure to incorporate additional maintenance inspections… in response to what was learned from Flight 2294.”
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