Southwest Airlines suffered a second in-flight decompression of a Boeing 737-300 yesterday. This is the second–the first was in July 2009.
Both airplanes were 15-year old 737-300s and the failure on both airplanes were in the aft fuselage. The 2009 incident involved a hole in front of the vertical fin about one foot in size. Friday’s incident was bigger, about three feet, further forward and on the left size but aft of the wing.
Southwest grounded 79 737-300s for inspection, all about 15 years old. The company doesn’t have word how long the inspections will take; about 300 flights will be canceled today.
That both airplanes involved were 15 years old and areas of the plane involved were similar gives cause for concern.
According to Flight Global, the 2009 incident was due to fatigue cracking in the production process.
Southwest told us today that the aircraft now grounded for inspection were identified by Boeing and Southwest:
“In consultation with Boeing, we identified the 79 aircraft in our fleet that require inspections to address the potential for an incident similar to what occurred with Flight 812. It’s factual that they all are in the 15 year range,” Southwest said in an email to Leeham News.
Flight Global reported that the 2009 aircraft had about 42,500 cycles and 50,500 hours at the time of the incident. Friday’s airplane had 48,722 flight hours, according to the Internet, and 39,781 cycles, according to Southwest.
Boeing, in a statement we received in our role as aerospace analyst for KIRO TV News (Seattle), said it is too soon to make any connection between the 2009 and Friday incidents, pending the investigation.
Flightaware has Southwest’s descent profile. The pilot wasted no time in coming down to breathable air.
Here is piece we did for KIRO TV.