Widespread cracking has been discovered by US safety inspectors on a Southwest airlines plane which had to make an emergency landing.
Damage in the form of cracking has been found around a hole that had ripped open at the top of the plane.
Inspectors have revealed there was pre-existing fatigue along the entire fracture surface, where two panels of the aircraft’s aluminum alloy skin separated at a rivet line.
Flight 812 was seriously damaged when a hole tore open while it was en route from Phoenix, Arizona, to Sacramento, California, on Friday.
The hole led to a sudden loss of pressure and triggered a drop-down of oxygen masks.
Passengers were terrified by the incident, with many texting loved ones to say goodbye.
The plane quickly landed at an Arizona military base, where the National Transportation Safety Board is now examining the damage.
Southwest Airlines cancelled another 300 flights Sunday to allow inspection of 79 Boeing 737-300 planes in the company’s fleet.
Inspectors will assess all the planes for skin fatigue damage.
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