Southwest Airlines is taking 81 Boeing 737s out of service for inspections, after one of its planes lost a piece of its fuselage in the skies over Arizona.  The airline expects to cancel approximately 300 flights Saturday, including several at McCarran International Airport, to accommodate the inspections.

The 737 lost cabin pressure after a hole opened up in the cabin roof yesterday at 36,000 feet. The pilot made what’s described as a “controlled descent” and landed safely at a military base in Yuma, Ariz.

No serious injuries are reported among the 118 people aboard. One passenger says she saw a flight attendant and another passenger pass out.

Federal investigators will try to determine what caused the hole. The FBI says it was a “mechanical failure,” not an act of terror or foul play.
Southwest says it’s removing the 81 737s from its flight schedule so they can be inspected over the next several days.

Officials say they’ll try to “minimize customer inconvenience.” Flight 812 had been on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif., when the incident occurred.

Customers may experience sporadic delays of up to two hours on some flights today. Customers should check the status of their particular flight or rebook their trip on before heading to the airport.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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