When traveling tens of thousands of feet above ground and in a small, cramped cabin, airplane scares are the last thing a person wants. But that’s what the passengers of a Southwest Airlines flight got on Saturday, when the view out of the window showed an obvious malfunction to one of the plane’s engines.
Flight 3472 was on its way from New Orleans to Orlando early Saturday when an inlet from one of the plane’s two engines tore away, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plane was a Boeing 737-700, flying at around 30,700 feet before it began its descent for an emergency landing into Pensacola International Airport at around 11 a.m. ET. Of the 99 passengers and five crew members on board, a Southwest statement said initial reports showed no injuries following the flight.
The incident started with a loud explosion, according to witness accounts to both the WSJ and ABC News. According to the WSJ, damage included the front edge of the wing, horizontal tail stabilizer, winglet, the body of the airplane itself and the obvious structural problems to the engine housing shown in photos. A Southwest spokesperson said the failures caused a depressurization of the cabin, according to the WSJ, and here’s what a passenger had to say to ABC:
“We heard a loud boom at about 10,000 feet. Sounded like a 18 wheeler tire blowing and we started smelling smoke,” passenger Stephanie Miller said.
Flight data showed that the plane descended from an altitude of 30,000 feet to 10,000 feet in just over eight minutes.
A spokesperson from the airline told ABC News that the plane, SW Flight 3472, suffered a “mechanical issue with the number one engine.”
A passenger who asked not to be named told the WSJ that the event felt “very controlled” after the explosion, and that everyone cheered when the pilot landed the plane safely. Here are some photos of the damage once the plane did land, from a woman claiming that the flight was the first time she ever flew:
The Southwest statement said the airline notified the National Transportation Safety Board of the incident, and an inspection to assess the damage will begin once authorized. The aircraft itself is out of service, according to ABC.
As of 6:10 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC reported that the airline spokesperson said passengers would be taken to their original destination, Orlando, as soon as possible.