Details have emerged about the conditions and actions of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an emergency landing in Yuma, AZ.

The 15-year-old plane owned by Southwest Airlines, on a recent flight from El Paso, Texas to Palm Springs, CA had to make an emergency landing. A hole in the fuselage suddenly opened up causing a rapid decompression in the cabin of the aircraft.

The pilot radioed air traffic control, ATC, that he had lost cabin pressure and was descending immediately. He didn’t wait for ATC clearance; the controller can be heard telling another controller that “he’s doing it anyway.”  The plane made a controlled dive of 20,000 feet in 5 minutes to an altitude needed for safe breathing, somewhere below 10,000 feet.

The pilot asked where the nearest airport was, then asked how far Yuma was from his position.  ATC initially told him to return to Phoenix, but when the pilot replied he can’t make it, ATC controllers told him Yuma was “five zero miles” to his 3 o’clock.  The pilot said he’ll take it, and controllers guided him to a safe landing. Controllers immediately began clearing airspace around the stricken plane to avoid mid-air collisions.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said Wednesday that the hole in the Arizona plane was repaired and the plane is undergoing previously scheduled maintenance before returning to service this month.

The aircraft’s manufacturer, Boeing, said it did not expect to crack in that area which is why it was not part of any recommended routine inspections.  Southwest is the nation’s largest operator of that particular model, a Boeing 737-200.  Southwest also operates one of the oldest fleets of any major airline.
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