NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – CBS 11 News has learned more about what happened aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that made an emergency landing when a hole somehow ripped open the plane.
Flight 812 was headed to Sacramento from Phoenix when it happened back in April.
The FAA has released the audio recordings between air traffic controllers and the pilots onboard.
The most important piece of this story we’ve known for months — Flight 812 landed safely in Arizona.
But, now we’re hearing firsthand how pilots and air traffic controllers handled the crisis. Both worked quickly and calmly to get the crippled plane on the ground.
The recordings indicate that Southwest Flight 812 started out just like any other. But, a few minutes in the pilot declared an emergency.
(Click below to listen to the entire audio clip.)
On one part of the recording you hear an air traffic controller say, “Southwest 812 is that you?” A pilot on the planes replies, “Declaring emergency… we lost the cabin. Apparently we’ve got a hole in the fuselage in the back of the airplane.”
The roof of the Boeing 737 had ripped open, leaving a gaping hole. The plane quickly descended from 36,000 feet to 10,000 feet as the pilot tries to figure out where to land.
When the pilot realized that he wouldn’t make it back to Phoenix, air traffic controllers direct him to Yuma, just 50 miles away.
Passengers on the flight pulled out cell phones and captured video of the crisis as it unfolded.
After the emergency landing, the FAA ordered inspections of older 737s, using an electro-magnetic device that can detect cracks not seen by the human eye. Those types of inspections should now occur regularly on some aging 737s.
Those emergency inspections caused Southwest to cancel hundreds of flights after the crisis, to conduct those inspections.
Ultimately minor cracks were found in five other Southwest planes, all of which have since been repaired.