A hole the size of a football suddenly opened up the fuselage of a Southwest 737 as it climbed out of Nashville on Monday, sucking out a piece of the cabin ceiling and depressurizing the jet in a roaring rush of air that no doubt scared the hell out of everybody on board.
Meanwhile, Southwest has inspected all its 737-300s — its fleet consists of 544 Boeing 737s, of which 181 are the 300 model — and found no signs that any of them seem inclined to do the same thing. The fuselage is designed with a lattice of ribs intended to hold the body of the aircraft together, so that the explosive force of decompression in one section does not tear the rest of it apart. The size of the hole suggest that this safeguard worked exactly as intended.
That safeguard failed on April 28, 1988, when most of the roof blew off a 19-year-old Aloha Airlines 737, killing a flight attendant and injuring 64 passengers and crew. It wasn’t an unusually old plane, but it had a very high number of takeoffs and landings because it was used on short-haul interisland flights. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause was metal fatigue.
Let’s hope that we go at least another 20 years without another of these, and if we have one that it ends as well.
Southwest sent a tweet, by the way, that it’s refunding the passengers’ fares.