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article imageSouthwest Airlines halts flights after forced landing in Arizona

By Leo Reyes     Apr 4, 2011 in Travel
Southwest Airlines canceled around 600 flights last weekend as the airline's technical personnel continue to inspect its Boeing 737 fleet following Friday's incident where Southwest flight 812 made emergency landing in Yuma due to cabin pressure loss.
"No one was seriously injured Friday as the aircraft carrying 118 people rapidly lost cabin pressure and made a harrowing but controlled descent from 34,500 feet, landing safely near Yuma, Ariz., 150 miles southwest of Phoenix. But passengers recalled tense minutes after a hole ruptured overhead with a blast, and they fumbled frantically for oxygen masks as the plane descended.", AP/Yahoo News reports.
Initial investigations indicate a pre-existing defect on the section near the roof. This was reportedly confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Southwest said in statement that two of its Boeing 737-300s had cracks and will be evaluated and repaired before they are returned to service. A National Transportation Safety Board member told The Associated Press later Sunday that a third plane had been found with cracks developing.
Inspections are on-going on the 79 Boeing 737 aircraft of which 19 have been found without defect while checks on the 60 other aircraft are continuing.
"What we saw with Flight 812 was a new and unknown issue," Mike Van de Ven, Southwest executive vice president and chief operating officer, said. "Prior to the event regarding Flight 812, we were in compliance with the FAA-mandated and Boeing-recommended structural inspection requirements for that aircraft."
"The safety of our Customers and Employees is our primary concern," Van de Ven said. "We are working closely with Boeing to conduct these proactive inspections and support the investigation. We also are working aggressively to attempt to minimize the impact to our Customers' travel schedules today." he added.
The decompression incident happened a few minutes after take off from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport after reaching cruising altitude. The pilots first considered returning to Phoenix but later decided to land in Yuma being the nearest and suitable airport.
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