Southwest Hole Under Investigation

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photo by Chris Dorst, Charleston Gazette
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The crew of a Southwest Airlines 737-300 made a safe emergency landing after a hole opened in the fuselage at about 34,000 feet during a flight from Nashville to Baltimore on Monday evening. It was not immediately clear what caused the hole, about one foot square, in the upper fuselage near the vertical stabilizer. Pictures of a squared-off hole posted online suggest a panel of some sort that came loose, or perhaps a rupture in the skin that was contained by reinforcing strips. Passenger Michael Cunningham told NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday morning there was no panic. "Everybody just calmly ... figured out what was going on," he said, and donned their oxygen masks as the cabin depressurized. "After we landed in Charleston [W. Va.], the pilot came out and looked up through the hole, and everybody applauded, shook his hand, a couple of people gave him hugs," Cunningham said. No injuries were reported. The airplane was about 15 years old. The NTSB is investigating.

A Southwest spokesperson said the airline operates about 200 737-300s and all of them were inspected overnight. No anomalies were found and the schedule operated as normal on Tuesday.