Southwest emergency landing at PHL Airport: Here’s everything we know

A woman was nearly sucked out a plane window in mid-air.

Southwest Airlines by Ray Horwath / Flickr Creative Commons

Southwest Airlines by Ray Horwath / Flickr Creative Commons

Southwest Airlines by Ray Horwath / Flickr Creative Commons
monicazorilla-creditdanyahenninger-feb2018

Updated April 18.

A Southwest Airlines flight was forced into an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday morning around 11:20 a.m. after apparent engine failure caused damage to the plane.

After a window burst in mid-air, a woman was partially sucked out, but other passengers worked hard to pull her back in. The woman, who has been identified as Jennifer Riordan of New Mexico, died on board. Per NBC10, it was the first on-board fatality in the airline’s history.

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults, a former navy aviator, has been hailed as a hero for calmly navigating the plane to safety.

One passenger, Marty Martinez, hosted a Facebook Live video as the plane was descending. General mayhem and confusion are audible in the grainy, low-light recording, which fuzzily shows the plane’s yellow oxygen masks dangling in front of Martinez’s face.”I thought I was cataloging the last moments of my existence,” he later said in an interview with CBS News.

Southwest Airlines has said this plane, a Boeing 737, was inspected two days prior to the disaster. The company said it will inspect its entire fleet of similar aircraft to ensure they aren’t subject to a similar flaw.

Here’s everything we know about the situation.

What we know

  • There were 143 passengers and five crew members aboard Southwest Flight 1380 when it ran into trouble.
  • About 20 minutes after departing NYC LaGuardia en route to Dallas Love Field, passengers heard an explosion, per CBS3.
  • Parts of the left engine had blown out (the fan cowling and the air intake), leading to depressurization that caused a window to burst and shatter, which in turn brought shrapnel and debris from the wrecked engine into the plane.
  • The plane was at 31,000 feet when its engine failed, per Wired.
  • Riordan, who was “sucked out” of the broken window, had been sitting in aisle 17, per multiple accounts relayed to NBC10. Passengers worked desperately to pull her back in.
  • Riordan was a vice-president of community relations at Wells Fargo bank, and a mother of two, per WFAA.
  • Her death was the first fatality in any commercial aviation incident since 2009, per Reuters.
  • Despite the broken window, the plane was able to land safely, at a speed that is considered average and on par with the aviation descent “rule of three” standard.
  • In the Air Tower Control audio, pilot Shults can be heard discussing the situation. “We have part of the aircraft missing,” she says at one point, “so we’re gonna have to slow down a bit.”
  • Passengers had been frantically sending farewell messages as the plane dropped. After arriving safely, many hugged and cheered.
  • After the emergency landing, the woman who was almost pulled out the window was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
  • More than 10 other injuries have been reported so far, some of the most severe being one known case of head trauma and another case of cardiac arrest. Multiple passengers were spotted exiting the plane on crutches.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Philadelphia to further investigate the calamity. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the investigation could take 12 to 14 months, per Reuters.
  • During inspections after landing, airport controllers and firefighters discovered a hole on the side of the aircraft, likely where the window used to be.
  • According to PHL Airport, some flights were delayed, but most arrived and departed as scheduled.
  • Southwest Airlines is considered to be one of the more secure airlines in the United States.
  • This incident comes days after another Southwest scare, when pilots attempted to land in New Orleans during a dual flood and tornado warning, but then pulled up at the last minute.
  • Like most of Southwest’s fleet, Flight 1380 was a Boeing 737. This model airplane has recently been found to be prone to structural and manufacturing problems.