A cracked window forced a Southwest Airlines plane heading from Chicago to New Jersey to land in Cleveland on Wednesday, just two weeks after a jet engine blew apart and broke a window in a deadly accident aboard another Southwest flight.
There were no reports of injuries after Flight 957 landed safely after making an abrupt turn toward Cleveland while over Lake Erie, according to tracking data from FlightAware.com.
Some of the 76 passengers told The Associated Press said that they heard popping and those sitting near the window moved away quickly. They said the plane's crew handled the situation smoothly.
Dallas-based Southwest said that the plane was diverted to examine damage to one of the three layers in the window, but didn't immediately release details on how it was broken. Photos taken by passengers and posted on social media showed one window with a large, jagged crack.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said that the plane never lost cabin pressure — that would have triggered oxygen masks to drop down for passengers — and that the pilots did not declare an emergency before landing.
There were no other mechanical problems with the Boeing 737, which was taken out of service, King said.
The timing of the incident could hardly be worse for Dallas-based Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline. Airline executives said last week they have seen ticket sales slow since the April 17 engine failure than sent debris flying into a plane, breaking a window and killing a passenger, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Southwest estimates the drop in sales will cost it between $50 million and $100 million.
Robert Mann, an airline consultant and former American Airlines executive, said windows are periodically polished to remove crazing, the formation of tiny cracks in the acrylic windows from exposure to chemicals and the sun's rays. He said he couldn't recall a similar incident caused by crazing and that the pilots were right to make a quick landing.
The window on the flight that landed in Philadelphia blew out after being hit by a loose engine part and Riordan died of injuries suffered after she was partially sucked out.
After the Philadelphia emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of more jet engines like the one that blew apart at 32,000 feet on that Boeing 737 jet heading from New York to Dallas. The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the blades snapped on the Southwest flight, hurling debris that broke a window.
Boeing declined to identify the supplier that manufactured the windows on its 737-700s, the model involved in Wednesday's incident and last month's fatal accident.
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