Summary: Southwest flight 681 was a harrowing experience for the passengers and crew aboard the plane. The flight departed from Houston, Texas on June 26th, 2020, bound for Chicago, but encountered severe turbulence midway through the journey. The turbulence caused injuries and damage to the plane, resulting in the aircraft making an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1. Turbulence Rocks the Flight
The flight was going smoothly until it reached an altitude of around 30,000ft. Suddenly, it hit extreme turbulence that jolted the passengers and crew members inside the plane. Those without seatbelts on were flung into the air and slammed into the overhead compartments. With no warning beforehand, the turbulence lasted for around 10-15 seconds, but it felt like an eternity.
Passengers described the scene as chaotic with people screaming and crying. They could hear items crashing around them, including food carts toppling over and dishes shattering.
Flight attendants quickly rushed to brace themselves and attempt to assist passengers, and despite the disarray, they managed to keep their composure and ensure everyone’s safety.
2. Passengers and Crew Members Injured
The sudden turbulence resulted in multiple injuries to both passengers and crew members. The exact number of injured is unclear, although estimates range between five to ten people affected. Some passengers were thrown from their seats and suffered broken bones, while others had cuts and bruises. One member of the crew had to be treated for a concussion.
When the plane made its emergency landing at the Albuquerque airport, several passengers needed medical attention given how the turbulence had impacted them.
The crew handled the situation professionally and provided medical aid to those who were hurt, addressing their injuries and ensuring that they were stable enough to disembark the plane without further harm.
3. Damage to the Plane
The intense turbulence didn’t just hurt passengers but also caused significant damages to the aircraft itself. The overhead bins were damaged, as were various parts within the cabin. In addition, parts of the plane’s fuselage were reportedly dented and scratched.
At first, it wasn’t clear how extensive the damage was, which inspired unease in both the flight attendants and passengers. However, after the plane landed safely, it was inspected to assess the damage, and even a cursory look at the plane showed there were significant issues that required repairs.
The extent of the damage meant that the plane couldn’t continue with its journey as planned. It had to be grounded in Albuquerque while crew engineers worked on it for several hours.
4. Investigation Into the Cause of Turbulence
Turbulence isn’t rare when flying, and planes are designed to withstand moderate turbulence. Still, the severity of the turbulence on Southwest Flight 681 raised questions. The flight’s data recorder was analyzed, and investigators wanted to know what happened for such a catastrophic event to happen so abruptly.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched an investigation into the cause of the severe turbulence. They interviewed passengers and crew members, analyzed the flight and weather data, and inspected the plane to see if there were any underlying or previously unknown issues that may have contributed to the turbulence.
Despite their efforts, no explanation was uncovered, and the cause of the turbulence remains a mystery.
5. Southwest Airlines Responds to the Incident
Southwest Airlines released a statement shortly after the incident, apologizing for what happened and thanking the flight crew for their swift action. They confirmed that the plane was taken out of service for repairs, but it has since returned to normal operation.
The safety and well-being of their passengers and aircraft are a top priority, and Southwest Airlines extended their sympathies to those affected by the turbulence.
They also assisted their customers with alternate flights so they could reach their destinations as planned.
Turbulence is an unfortunate aspect of flying, but it isn’t every day that passengers experience the level of turbulence that rocked Southwest Flight 681. Even with injuries, damage to the aircraft, and an emergency landing, the flight crew did an outstanding job keeping everyone safe and tending to those who needed medical support.
The ongoing investigation into the cause of the turbulence may provide some clarity into what happened, but regardless of what they find, it’s heartening to know that the necessary steps were taken to keep the passengers and crew safe and resolve the situation before it worsened.
Lastly, the professionalism of the Southwest Airlines team, both during and after the incident, inspires confidence, and their response undoubtedly eased the anxieties of their passengers.