Hole in Jetliner Disrupts BWI-Bound Flight

Southwest Airlines is inspecting nearly 200 of its aircraft after a hole the fuselage of a plane headed to BWI Marshall forced an emergency landing in West Virginia. No passengers were hurt. Video by AP

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By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Southwest Airlines jetliner headed for Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport made an emergency landing in West Virginia yesterday evening after a hole opened in the body of the plane and the cabin lost pressure, an airline spokeswoman said.

Flight 2294, which was carrying 126 passengers and a crew of five, landed at Charleston, W.Va., about 50 minutes after its 4:05 p.m. departure from Nashville.

No injuries were reported.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before," airline spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said.

What caused the damage to the Boeing 737-300 was not immediately known and would be investigated, she said. In the meantime, she said, all of the airline's 737-300s would be inspected overnight.

The loss of cabin pressure was detected about 30 minutes into the flight. Oxygen masks deployed and were used, and the plane descended to a safe altitude, McInnis said. Oxygen is usually needed above 10,000 feet.

Witnesses described the hole that apparently led to the depressurization as about the size of a football and located on the side of the airplane, near the top.

Another airplane was sent to Charleston to pick up the passengers, and they arrived at BWI shortly before 11 p.m., McInnis said.

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