Southwest Airlines plane with cracked window diverted to Cleveland

A cracked window has forced a Southwest Airlines plane heading from Chicago to New Jersey to land in Cleveland, two weeks after a jet engine blew apart and broke a window in a deadly accident aboard another Southwest flight.

Incident comes weeks after engine failure killed passenger on another Southwest flight

Twitter photo purportedly shows the cracked window that forced a Southwest Airlines flight to be diverted on Wednesday. (ChaikelK/Twitter)

A cracked window forced a Southwest Airlines plane heading from Chicago to New Jersey to land in Cleveland on Wednesday, two weeks after a jet engine blew apart and broke a window in a deadly accident aboard another Southwest flight. 

There were no reports of injuries after Flight 957 landed safely following an abrupt turn toward Cleveland while over Lake Erie.

Dallas-based Southwest said the plane diverted to Cleveland for a maintenance review after the damage to one of the multiple layers of window pane. Passengers' photos taken from inside the plane and posted on social media showed one window with a large, jagged crack.

Some passengers told The Associated Press they heard a popping noise and those sitting near the window moved away quickly. They said the plane's crew handled the situation smoothly.

Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brandy King said the plane never lost cabin pressure, which would have triggered oxygen masks to drop down for passengers, and that the pilots did not declare an emergency before landing.

There were no other mechanical problems with the plane, which was taken out of service, King said. The airline was making arrangements to get the 76 passengers to Newark on another plane.

Southwest business suffering

The timing of the incident could hardly be worse for the airline, the fourth biggest in the United States.

Airline executives said last week they have seen ticket sales slow since the April 17 engine failure that sent debris flying into a plane, breaking a window and killing a passenger, Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, N.M.

Southwest estimates the drop in sales will cost it between $50 million and $100 million US.

Robert Mann, an airline consultant and former American Airlines executive, said windows are periodically polished to remove crazing, the formation of tiny cracks in the acrylic windows from exposure to chemicals and the sun's rays. He said he couldn't recall a similar incident caused by crazing and that the pilots were right to make a quick landing. 

The window on the flight that landed in Philadelphia blew out after being hit by a loose engine part and Riordan died of injuries suffered after she was partially sucked out.

After the Philadelphia emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of more jet engines like the one that blew apart about 9,750 metres on that Boeing 737 jet. The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the blades snapped on the Southwest flight, hurling debris that broke a window.