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April 4, 2011

Southwest Flights Canceled: Inspections ground hundreds of flights

As investigators continue inspecting Southwest Airlines' fleet of aircraft, about 100 flights are expected to be canceled today—after nearly 600 flights were canceled this weekend.

CNN reported that during a flight on a Boeing 737 from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif, a 5 feet by 1 foot hole opened in the top of the aircraft. The hole caused the cabin to lose pressure, requiring passengers to use their oxygen masks. Investigators have since found cracks in three other Southwest planes.

Southwest was fined $7.5 million is 2009 for improper aircraft inspection protocol. Former Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation and aviation lawyer Mary Schiavo said many aircraft are allowed to fly with cracks, but this should not be the standard for Southwest because, within the industry, their planes have the most punishing schedule. "Why? Because they get good usage out of their planes flying sometimes five, six, seven times a day. That's a lot of strain on an old plane; in this case, the plane was 15 years old," Schiavo said.

Schiavo also spoke to the Wall Street Journal Digital Network about the event. Additionally she spoke to WTOP Radio in Washignton D.C. and told them visual inspections may not be enough to find cracks in an aging aircraft.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are more than 280 Boeing 737 airplanes operating in the United States but Schiavo said there are different models of the Boeing aircraft.

Read more about how Motley Rice aviation lawyers work to protect passengers and the safety and security of the traveling public.