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Hole in plane forces emergency landing

world Updated: Jul 15, 2009 12:44 IST
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A US jet was forced to make an emergency landing after horrified passengers discovered a hole in the plane's fuselage.

The football-sized hole appeared during a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to Baltimore on Monday, prompting the cabin to depressurise and forcing the plane to land.

"All 126 passengers and crew of five onboard landed safely," the firm said in a statement.

An investigator examined the hole on top of a Southwest Airlines plane.

US carrier Southwest Airlines is inspecting nearly 200 of its aircraft after a hole in the fuselage of a plane forced an emergency landing.

"The aircraft cabin depressurised approximately 30 minutes into the flight, activating the passengers' onboard oxygen masks throughout the cabin.

"According to initial crew reports, the depressurisation appears to be related to a small-sized hole located approximately mid-cabin, near the top of the aircraft."

Charleston Airport spokesman Brian Belcher said passengers on the 737 aircraft could see the outside through the hole in the rear of the plane.

The hole was position just above passenger Michael Cunningham, who had been sleeping in seat 20-C.

"All of a sudden, the loudest noise I ever heard came out of nowhere. There was no pop, no creak, no explosion like noise. There was just a loud roar," said Cunningham.

He said it took him a few seconds to realise what had happened after the noise woke him up.

"I got the baseball cap out of my face and I looked up and there's the sun coming through the ceiling," he said.

The loss of cabin pressure caused the oxygen masks to deploy. Cunningham said some people weren't sure if they were working.

"They were asking me is it working, is the bag inflating? And I was like, if you can feel your fingers and you're conscious by this point, the bag's working," he said.

The airline said it would inspect all its 737-300s.