Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Passengers injured after seatbelts fail on Southwest plane

Southwest Airlines logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a preliminary report about an instance of severe turbulence during which one flight attendant and five passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight were injured. The report states that "two of the five injured passengers were occupying seats where the seatbelt fittings failed and separated."


The incident happened on the afternoon of February 24, 2008, when the Boeing 737-300 aircraft, operating as Southwest Airlines Flight SWA 2809, encountered severe turbulence during descent for landing at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV. The scheduled flight, which had five crew members and 137 passengers on board, had originated at Ontario, CA.

More details, quoted from the NTSB report:
According to information provided by Southwest Airlines, the flight was descending into Las Vegas at an altitude of 11,400 feet above mean sea level (msl) when it encountered severe turbulence. The captain communicated with Southwest Operations to arrange for paramedics to meet the airplane at the gate in Las Vegas. The flight continued and landed without further incident. Medical personnel met the airplane as requested, and the treated the injured passengers and flight attendant, classifying their injuries as minor.

A preliminary review of the flight recorder data provided by Southwest Airlines disclosed that the airplane experienced a vertical acceleration minimum of approximately -0.761 G, followed 2 seconds later by a positive peak of approximately +1.762 G. [NTSB ID: LAX08IA065]
That must have been quite a ride, and it's good to know that the injuries were considered to be minor. In all the years I have been following accident and incident reports from the NTSB, I believe this is the first time I have seen a mention of seatbelt failure contributing to passenger injury during turbulence. Anyone recall any other instances in recent memory?