A Southwest 737 made an emergency landing yesterday after a hole opened up in the fuselage, resulting in a loss of pressure at around 10,000 feet. The plane, which was traveling from Nashville to Baltimore, made an emergency landing in Charleston, West Virginia. No one was injured.
Passengers claimed they could see the sky through the hole, which was about a foot square. The plane's oxygen masks deployed, and passengers apparently remained calm while the pilot executed a smooth landing.
Southwest completed an overnight inspection of its 737s, but for the moment it's not known what caused the rupture, nor whether it's an endemic vulnerability or simply an isolated incident. But as the Airline Biz blog points out, Southwest's past history with the FAA may mean a lengthy investigation, depending on the cause.
As travelers, I think the main take-away here is that everyone—passengers and pilot—remained calm and did what they were supposed to do. As a somewhat anxious flyer myself, I'm fairly certain a hole in the fuselage would seem like a catastrophe to me. But it's important to remember that the crew aboard your aircraft are trained to handle just about everything, and there are additional safety measures in place to protect you—which is why airlines are going to great lengths to get passengers to watch those safety demonstrations.