Hawaii woman describes frightening Southwest flight - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii woman describes frightening Southwest flight

Photo courtesy Southwest Airlines, Boeing Photo courtesy Southwest Airlines, Boeing

By Lisa Kubota  bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Southwest Airlines grounded 79 of its planes and canceled at least 300 flights to inspect its fleet of Boeing 737's after a hole ripped open in one of its planes midair.

One of the passengers, an outgoing Board of Education member, is finally back home tonight. After attending a conference in Phoenix, Janis Akuna was heading to Sacramento to catch a connecting flight back to Hawaii. She was sitting in the third row when the trouble started about 30 minutes into the flight.

"We heard a pop in the plane. We felt the pressure. There was a hissing sound so we knew something was happening inside the plane and then our masks came down," said Akuna.

While some people put on their oxygen masks, the high altitude caused others, including a flight attendant, to pass out. Since Akuna was sitting in the front of the plane she had no idea that a 3 to 4 foot hole had ripped open in the roof.

"The back of the plane could see the hole in the airplane. It happened so part of that panel up there flopped down and people could see outside. There's a hole in the plane," said Akuna.

As the aircraft lost oxygen, the pilot descended to 11,000 feet. The plane managed to make an emergency landing at a military base in Arizona.

"Once we were on the ground, everybody clapped, everybody was happy, and everybody became friends basically," Akuna said.

According to the NTSB, a preliminary investigation showed the aircraft suffered a "structural failure" and "depressurization." The plane had its last major inspection and overhaul a year ago.

Southwest Airlines will inspect its grounded planes for aircraft skin fatigue. Passengers like Akuna are just grateful to be back on the ground.

"I was very happy I wasn't sitting back there because I probably would have been one of the many more emotionally impacted persons," Akuna said.



Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly