A Southwest Airlines flight from made an emergency landing at a military base on Friday after a sudden drop in cabin pressure, said federal officials . Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Los Angeles, said the cause of the decompression wasn't immediately known. He said the pilot “made a rapid, controlled descent from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet altitude after the incident occurred”.
Some passengers aboard the flight from Phoenix to Sacramento said a hole in the cabin caused a rapid descent.
“It dropped pretty quick,” said a passenger, who provided cellphone photographs of the cabin damage in the Boeing 737. The pictures showed a panel hanging open in a section above the plane's middle aisle, with a hole of about six feet long. “It's at the top of the plane, right up above where you store your luggage,” she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
“The panel's not completely off. It's like ripped down, but you can see completely outside... When you look up through the panel, you can see the sky.” She said the plane had just left Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport when she awoke after hearing a “gunshot-like sound” and oxygen masks dropped for passengers and flight attendants.
Southwest said there were no injuries among the 118 people aboard. However, the passenger said “there were some people that were passing out because they weren't getting the oxygen”.
She said one flight attendant's oxygen didn't work and that he fell and suffered a bloody nose. There was “no real panic” among the passengers, who applauded the pilot after he emerged from the cockpit following the emergency landing.
Holes in aircrafts can be caused by metal fatigue or lightning. In October 2010, a cabin lost air pressure when a hole ripped open in the fuselage of a Boston-bound American Airlines flight from Miami that also had to make an emergency landing.
In 1988, a Boeing 737 blew open at 24,000 feet when a 20-foot section of the aircraft's upper fuselage ripped off. An Aloha Airlines flight attendant was sucked out of the jet and killed, and 61 passengers were injured. — AP