Earlier this week, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft made an emergency landing at Miami International Airport after experiencing a rapid decompression. The incident occurred late on the evening of October 26, 2010 not long after the aircraft had departed Miami en route to Boston. After the aircraft landed safely, it was discovered to have a hole in the fuselage. No one was injured.
The Aviation Herald published this brief description of the incident:
An American Airlines Boeing 757-200, registration N626AA performing flight AA-1640 from Miami,FL to Boston,MA (USA) with 154 passengers and 6 crew, had been cleared to climb to FL310 when the airplane suffered a rapid decompression. The crew donned their oxygen masks and initiated an emergency descent, the passenger oxygen masks were deployed. After reaching 10,000 feet the crew requested even lower and descended further to 8000 feet and returned to Miami for a safe landing on Miami's runway 08R about 40 minutes after departure.Visit the Aviation Herald to view photos of the damaged aircraft. Pretty sobering stuff!
A post flight inspection revealed a hole of about 1 foot by 2 feet (33 by 66cm) just above and aft of the L1 door and just above the "A" of the American Airlines Logo.
If you are thinking this incident sounds vaguely familiar, you are not alone. When I heard about it, the first thing that came to mind was a similar incident in 2009 involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300. In that case, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probably cause to be: "Fuselage skin failure due to pre-existing fatigue at a chemically milled step."
To refresh your memory, you can click here to read about the Southwest B737 incident.