Another Southwest Airlines flight makes emergency landing – this time after window cracks
The incident comes two weeks after an engine exploded during another Southwest flight, smashing a window and killing a passenger who was partly sucked through the opening
A Southwest Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Cleveland on Wednesday after a window pane cracked mid-flight, airline officials and the US Federal Aviation Administration said.
No one was injured in the incident, which came two weeks after an engine on a Southwest 737 ripped apart in flight and shattered a window, killing a female passenger who was sucked through the resulting hole. It was the first US airline passenger fatality since 2009.
The cause of Wednesday’s crack in one of the window’s multiple panes was not immediately known.
The flight, Southwest 957, was travelling to Newark Liberty International Airport from Chicago Midway International Airport with 76 passengers on board.
The crew diverted the Boeing Co 737-700 to Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport at about 11am local time to inspect a layer of a windowpane, said Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish.
“The aircraft has been taken out of service for maintenance review,” Parrish said.
US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro, who confirmed no one was hurt, said the organisation was investigating the incident.
Wednesday’s incident is damaging more to Southwest’s public perception than evidence of any systemic issue, Teal Group fleet analyst Richard Aboulafia said.
“It’s unfortunate only from an optics and image standpoint,” Aboulafia said. “Windows are made by window manufacturers. Nothing to do with technology that’s unique to the 737 or to Southwest.”
Aviation experts say the slightest defect or micro-crack in a plane window can cause cracks like the one that forced the jet to land on Wednesday.
Airline consultant Robert Mann said windows are periodically polished to remove the formation of tiny cracks in the acrylic windows from exposure to chemicals and the sun’s rays.
Anthony Roman, a commercial pilot and flight instructor based in New York, said problems with windows should be detected during regular inspections and maintenance.
The airline said in its first-quarter earnings report it is bracing for a decline in bookings following the April engine blowout.
The FAA on Tuesday ordered additional inspections of fan blades in hundreds of additional engines similar to the one that failed in the deadly Southwest accident on April 17.
Southwest has said it planned to complete ultrasonic inspections on all fan blades on the some 700 planes in its fleet with the CFM56-7B engines, the model involved in last month’s blowout, over the next two weeks, meeting the FAA’s August deadline by mid-May.
The CFM engine is made by a joint venture of General Electric Co and France’s Safran. Southwest said it has not found any cracks on fan blades inspected since the accident.