FAA is probing how a 12-inch crack occurred in Southwest jet

Safety officials are investigating how a 12-inch crack appeared in the skin of a Boeing 737 jet operated by Southwest Airlines

Federal officials said Friday they are investigating after a crack ruptured the skin on a Boeing 737 jet operated by Southwest Airlines, causing the plane to gradually lose cabin pressure.

The incident occurred Monday on a flight from Las Vegas to Boise, Idaho. Flight records show that the pilots began a rapid, 6-minute descent from 39,000 feet to 22,000 feet.

At that altitude, the cabin pressure was safe, and the crew completed the flight, said Southwest and the Federal Aviation Administration. Oxygen masks in the passenger cabin never dropped from the ceiling, and no injuries were reported, the airline and the regulatory agency said.

The FAA said that an inspection turned up a 12-inch crack in the skin of the plane’s crown. Airlines are required to inspect that area every 1,500 flights. The FAA said it was too early to know whether the frequency of inspections should be increased.

Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said the pilots, acting on an indicator in the cockpit, “followed standard procedures by descending to a lower altitude to maintain a safe and comfortable cabin environment.” That “resolved the issue,” and the crew continued safely to Boise, she said.

“The aircraft did not incur a rapid depressurization, masks were not deployed, and the aircraft did not require a diversion to maintain safety of flight,” Agnew said.

On Friday, the plane was in a maintenance facility and undergoing repairs for the crack, she said.

Chicago-based Boeing did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The incident was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

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