13 Investigates


Investigating cracks in airplane windows

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 16:56:29-05

A Southwest Airlines flight was diverted Wednesday after a passenger window cracked mid-flight. Thankfully no injuries were reported. 
But it's another scare for the popular airline.  Contact 13 looked into aviation data to see how often this happens. 

This is the second incident in the last three weeks for Southwest Airlines involving a window. On April 17, a passenger died after being partially sucked out of the plane.  Debris from an engine explosion had blown out the window. 

We searched aviation accident databases for the last few years and found in August 2011, a Delta airline flight about to take off from Atlanta experienced an engine failure.The plane was damaged including, "...an impact scar on the outer pane of a window." 

On March 4, 2015, a Frontier Airlines flight crew saw sparks coming from under the windshield. They "...heard a popping sound and observed the windshield cracking." 

And in June 2015, a United Express flight was on final approach when a fire started in the cockpit. It appeared to start from a power wire routed at the bottom of the windshield. 

FAA data suggests passenger window failures are rare.  Each exit window has three panes and federal data shows only 26 failures of the outer pane worldwide in the entire Boeing 737 history.

Southwest also said there are multiple layers of panes in each aircraft window and no emergency landing was declared in Wednesday's incident.  The aircraft has been taken out of service for maintenance review. 

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