Because of a gaping hole in the roof (photo, from 7sur7.be) which caused a sudden drop in cabin pressure, Southwest Airlines flight 812 made an emergency landing at a military air base in Arizona.
The Boeing 737 had just left Phoenix on Friday and was supposed to land in Sacramento.
Passengers said they heard a bang as the roof panel blew open in the cabin, and a woman told the Associated Press news agency that “you can see completely outside.”
Soon after leaving Phoenix, passenger Brenda Reese said she heard a “gunshot-like sound”.
“It’s at the top of the plane, right up above where you store your luggage,” she told AP by telephone from the plane.
“The panel’s not completely off. It’s like ripped down… When you look up through the panel, you can see the sky.”
She added that the plane “dropped pretty quick”.
“They had just taken drink orders when I heard a huge sound and oxygen masks came down,” another woman told a local television station.
“There was a hole in the fuselage about three feet long. You could see the insulation and the wiring. You could see a tear the length of one of the ceiling panels.”
The pilot made a rapid and controlled descent, according to aviation officials.
Although what caused the fuselage to rupture was not immediately clear, a FBI spokesman said terrorism was not suspected. She added that “it appears to be a mechanical issue”.
An “in-flight fuselage rupture” led to the sudden descent and drop in cabin pressure, said the National Transportation Safety Board.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said : “We do not know the cause of the decompression.”
According to a statement from Southwest Airlines none of the 118 passengers on board were injured, but one flight attendant was slightly injured.
On Saturday the company announced that its 81 Boeing 737 were to undergo a “strict inspection” before flying again.