Cracks have been discovered in three more Boeing 737s operated by Southwest Airlines, the company has said. The Texas-based carrier is conducting checks on 79 of its Boeing 737-300 fleet after a hole tore open a plane carrying 118 passengers from Phoenix to Sacramento on Friday. The incident caused a sudden loss of cabin pressure, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. While none of those onboard were seriously hurt, the airline immediately announced that it would take 79 737s out of service to check for “subsurface fatigue in the skin that is not visible to the eye”.
Following these inspections, which are being carried out with the help of Boeing, Southwest confirmed that “small, subsurface cracks” were detected on three planes, and that further evaluation and potential repairs would be necessary before the aircraft are returned to service. Of the 67 737s checked so far, 64 aircraft have now returned to service. The airline expects to complete all checks by the end of today. On Sunday, Southwest cancelled approximately 300 flights as the inspections were carried out, with severe schedule disruption continuing yesterday.
“Our highest priority is the safety of our employees and customers,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer. “What we saw with Flight 812 was a new and unknown issue