A Southwest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after part of its engine broke off and shattered a passenger window.
The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed there was one casualty — the first US commercial flight casualty since 2013. Information about the landing is also coming in via social media and local news.
According to a statement from Southwest Airlines, the Boeing 737-700 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport headed toward Dallas, Texas, landed at Philadelphia International Airport, and was carrying 143 people, plus five crew members at the time of landing.
Here’s a gif of that flight path, via Flight Aware:
NBC10 in Philadelphia reports that one passenger’s father-in-law reported via his daughter that a woman was sucked toward the open window.
The jet’s left engine blew shortly after takeoff, passengers said. Pieces of shrapnel flew into the plane’s fuselage and at least one window, the passengers and FAA said.
“There is a hole in the side of the aircraft, also,” an aircraft controller relayed to firefighters at the airport.
Passengers aboard the flight posted photos and video from the scene on social media shortly after landing, including images of the destroyed engine and the broken window.
One passenger, Marty Martinez of Dallas, went live on Facebook ahead of the emergency landing. Though much of the video is garbled, the video shows Martinez wearing an oxygen mask. In the comments, he shared harrowing details from the moment after the window shattered next to a passenger.
“Flight attendants ran over calling for passengers to help cover the hole as they broke down and began uncontrollably crying and looking horrified as they looked outside. Plane dropped dramatically and it smelled like fire with ash coming down on everyone thru the vents. Absolutely terrifying, but we are okay.”
In a later post, he explained his decision to go live on Facebook:
I literally bought WiFi as the plane was going down because I wanted to be able to reach the people I loved…thinking these were my final moments on earth.
And put in a position to have to prioritize the people I loved to send them my final words was an absolutely gut wrenching feeling. So I thought to Facebook LIVE my experience, thinking this would be my last communication with the people I loved and my team back home.
Per the aviation experts over at NYC Aviation, an engine failure of this kind is pretty uncommon. And yes, it’s possible that a person could be partially pulled out an open airplane window due to the enormous pressure difference between the cabin and the atmosphere at high altitude.
Trying to confirm, but the window breaking and any body part pulled outward, with entire body not fitting and being stuck, sounds possible.
— NYCAviation (@NYCAviation) April 17, 2018
Though a plane window is likely too small to eject an adult’s body from a plane, there have been past incidents where much larger holes were ripped in planes, leading to fatalities.
In 1988, a Boeing 737-200 blew open after, per the Federal Aviation Agency, “an explosive decompression occurred,” killing a flight attendant who was pulled from the plane, and injuring eight others.
And, in 1989, per FAA, a Boeing 747-122 also suffered a serious breakdown due to “explosive decompression,” resulting in the ejection and deaths of nine people.