Plane makes emergency landing with hole in cabin

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 11:03 PM
Plane makes emergency landing with hole in cabin

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A Southwest Airlines plane with a gaping hole in fuselage made an emergency landing at a military base in Arizona on Friday after a sudden drop in cabin pressure, airline officials said.

Southwest Flight 812 from Phoenix to Sacramento, with 118 passengers on board, landed safely at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station with a hole in the top of the aircraft, a Southwest spokeswoman said in a statement.

There were no passenger injuries reported, the statement said. The airline said one flight attendant was slightly injured.

The Boeing 737 landed at 4:07 p.m. local time after declaring an emergency, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

"We do not know the cause of the decompression," Gregor said.

Passengers described the harrowing scene to the CBS television affiliate in Sacramento, detailing the damage to the plane.

"They had just taken drink orders when I heard a huge sound and oxygen masks came down and we started making a rapid descent. They said we'd be making an emergency landing," a woman identified as Cindy told the station.

"There was a hole in the fuselage about three feet long. You could see the insulation and the wiring. You could see a tear the length of one of the ceiling panels."

Another passenger tweeted that she was "happy to be alive."

"Still feel sick. 6 foot hole in the skin of the plane five rows behind me. Unbelievable," Shawna MalviniRedden wrote. She said she texted her husband while in the air, saying "I love you."

Southwest airlines said an aircraft with maintenance crew, ground crew and customer service agents onboard, was sent to Yuma.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Greg McCune)