REFILE-Southwest Airlines grounds 81 planes after emergency

(Refiles to add dropped letter in headline)

PHOENIX, April 2 (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines grounded 81
aircraft from its Boeing 737 fleet for inspection after a
gaping hole in the fuselage forced one of its planes to make
emergency landing in Arizona on Friday, the company said on
Saturday.

Southwest (LUV.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research) engineers will inspect
the aircraft to try to determine the cause, Southwest said in a
statement. Passengers heard a loud noise and suddenly saw a
hole about mid-cabin.

Southwest Airlines is working with the National
Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation
Administration on the ground in Arizona to determine the cause
of a sudden drop in cabin pressure on Southwest Flight 812 from
Phoenix to Sacramento on Friday, airline officials said.

The flight, with 118 passengers and five crew members on
board, landed safely at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, a
military base, with a hole in the top of the aircraft, a
Southwest spokeswoman said in a statement.

Preliminary reports showed the aircraft lost pressure and
oxygen masks were deployed, Southwest said in a statement.
Crew members confirmed a hole in the top of the aircraft near
mid-cabin, the airline said.

One flight attendant and at least one passenger were
treated at the scene for minor injuries, Southwest said in a
statement.

Passengers described the scene to the CBS television
affiliate in Sacramento, detailing the damage to the plane.

“They had just taken drink orders when I heard a huge sound
and oxygen masks came down and we started making a rapid
descent. They said we’d be making an emergency landing,” a
woman identified as Cindy told the station.

“There was a hole in the fuselage about three feet (one
meter) long. You could see the insulation and the wiring. You
could see a tear the length of one of the ceiling panels.”

Another passenger tweeted that she was “happy to be
alive.”

“Still feel sick. 6 foot (1.8 meters) hole in the skin of
the plane five rows behind me. Unbelievable,” Shawna
MalviniRedden wrote. She said she texted her husband while in
the air, saying “I love you.”
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Additional reporting by Lauren
Keiper in Boston; Editing by Greg McCune and Sandra Maler)

REFILE-Southwest Airlines grounds 81 planes after emergency