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Wed, Nov 16, 2005

Southwest Plane Loses Cabin Pressure En Route To NH

No Problem With Aircraft Found Afterward

Cooler heads prevailed Sunday night when a Southwest Airlines flight bound for Manchester, NH from Las Vegas experienced a loss of cabin pressure. According to those onboard the stricken airliner, everyone onboard handled the event with calm professionalism.

"All of a sudden, you had a pretty significant popping of the ears, then the oxygen masks came down," said Dr. Christopher Newton, a passenger aboard Flight 530, to the Associated Press.

"It was definitely some tense times on the plane," said Newton, but "I would not say it was a chaotic environment."

No passengers screamed, or showed signs of panic, according to Newton. 

The 737 experienced a significant drop in cabin pressure with about one hour to go in the flight. As passengers quickly donned their oxygen masks, and the pilot rapidly descended to a lower altitude -- exactly as procedure dictated.

Procedure also supported the decision for the flight to continue onto Manchester -- now flying at about 14,000 ft -- instead of diverting to another airport.

"This is something our pilots are trained to handle," said Southwest spokesman Whitney Eichinger.

Somewhat oddly, nothing amiss was found with the plane after it arrived in Manchester. The aircraft was later deadheaded to the airline's maintenance center in Dallas for a thorough inspection.

While the cause of Sunday's incident has yet to be determined, it comes just over three months after another 737, flying for Cypriot carrier Helios, lost cabin pressure en route to Athens. All 121 people onboard that aircraft died when the jet went down outside the Greek capital, after the passengers lost consciousness and the plane ran out of fuel.




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