Southwest Airlines had an emergency landing Saturday afternoon when it was discovered that the plane had a wing flap malfunction.
According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, 81 passengers were on Flight 1704 from Sacramento to Burbank. Paul Mitchell and his wife Jodi Hicks were two passengers on the flight who were on their way to a formal event in Los Angeles. It was Mitchell who tweeted the drama unfolding aboard the plane as it was still in flight.
“So, our @southwest flight has a ‘flap malfunction,’ and they are determining if they have enough runway at Burbank to land,” he tweeted to his more than 2,200 followers.
The Southwest jet rerouted the flight to Los Angeles International Airport instead of Burbank. On Sunday, Mitchell gave more details of the incident.
“They said they were looking for a longer runway, but we could tell that would be LAX.”
In the beginning, no one really thought anything of the pilot’s announcement, according to Mitchell.
“At first, everybody was like, ‘What?’ People were looking around at each other. Nobody had been paying close attention. Then the pilot said we’d land at LAX.”
The Southwest plane dropped dramatically low in altitude before the emergency landing. Mitchell describes the event as though the plane “skimmed the city.” When the airliner touched down at LAX, everyone was relieved.
“… We used basically the whole runway to land. Everybody clapped. We were grateful we landed safely.”
He posted another message to Twitter as the incident played out.
“People in the back of the plane bummed we didn’t land at Burbank, but LAX is preferable to alternative. #malfunction.”
Luckily, none of the passengers were injured during the landing. This is especially good considering a wing flaps malfunction could have yielded devastating results.
Passengers had the choice of staying on-board the plane as the flaps were being repaired or opt for ground transportation from LAX instead of flying back to Burbank. Most of the passengers got off the plane.
USA Today offers a brief explanation of what the wing flaps provide for airplanes.
“Flaps are part of the flight control system and impacts plane lift and speed. The spokesman said the system has built-in redundancies for safe operation in such a situation.”
It’s entirely possible that the Southwest emergency landing could have been much worse had it not been for the longer runway or the “built-in” safety precautions within the wing flaps.
[Photo Credit: Paul Mitchell via Sacramento Bee]