Southwest Airlines Flight 812’s hole in the aircraft fuselage

Friday’s April 1st, 2011, incident was no April Fool’s joke for the passengers and crew aboard a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 where a hole ripped open in the fuselage while it was en-route from Phoenix, AZ to Sacramento, CA causing it to divert to Yuma, AZ and make an emergency landing where all aboard landed safely.

With the plane having just left Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport the many customers of Southwest Airlines and especially those traveling to or from the Valley were notably concerned.  KSAZ FOX10 News’ top story looked at the factors surrounding this incident. FOX 10 Arizona Morning AnchorsRick D’Amico and Andrea Robinson interviewed aviation expert and Sawyer Aviation President, Chad J. Verdaglio during the live morning segment to address the concerns about pilot procedures for rapid cabin depressurization, how mechanics detect metal fatigue on aircraft, new maintenance procedures from the FAA and overall aviation safety.

“Once the loss in pressurization occurred, the pilots are trained to put on their oxygen masks immediately, bring the throttles to idle and initiate an emergency descent. The cabin oxygen masks would have deployed automatically allowing the passengers to put on their own mask. Per most jet aircraft’s emergency procedures the crew would have descended to 10,000 feet where supplemental oxygen is not needed. This most likely happened in a matter of minutes as these aircraft are able to descend rapidly by the crew at rates 6,000-10,000 feet per minute.”

At 35,000 and going over 530MPH jet aircraft have a very broad area from which to choose a safe landing site or even be able to glide to in the event of a loss of engine power. With the aircraft otherwise operating normally, both engines running and all flight controls working, Yuma was an easy choice. Being that they landed at the Marine Base in Yuma, an airport used by large military and civilian aircraft, there was plenty of runway to land.

Verdaglio reassured everyone that pilots of jet aircraft of any size, airline or corporate, are trained to handle these types of situations. When things do go wrong the pilots follow their training. The quick-thinking pilots from Southwest Airline’s Flight 812 showed their training and skill proving yet again that aviation is still the safest form of travel.

Southwest Airlines and Emergency Landing Protocols: MyFoxPHOENIX.com

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