A Southwest Airlines flight attendant suffered a broken back during a landing that was so rough she believed the plane was crashing, according to federal safety investigators.
The terrifying incident occurred on Southwest Flight 2029, as it was traveling from Oakland to John Wayne Airport in Orange County on July 1, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.
As the plane was landing on a runway, it hit the ground with such force that the crew member thought the flight had crashed, the NTSB said.
The woman, who was not named, felt pain in her back and neck and could not move, and was taken to a hospital where she was diagnosed with a compression fracture to a vertebra.
The safety board completed its investigation without saying what caused the rough landing.
The NTSB said none of the other 141 people on board the plane were injured in the incident in Santa Ana.
The pilots told investigators that they were aiming for the normal touchdown zone on the relatively short runway.
“However, it ended up being a firm landing,” the NTSB said in its final report, dated Friday.
Dallas-based Southwest said in a statement Monday: “We reported the matter to the NTSB in accordance with regulatory requirements and conducted an internal review of the event.”
A spokeswoman for the airline declined to provide further information when asked about the result of the internal investigation and whether the plane was inspected for evidence of damage that could occur during a hard landing. The plane has been making several flights a day, according to tracking services.
Shortly after the 18-year-old Boeing 737-700 taxied off the runway, the pilots — a 55-year-old captain and 49-year-old co-pilot — were told about the injury to the flight attendant, who was in a jump seat at the back of the plane.
The runway that the plane landed on is only 5,700 feet long. By comparison, runways at nearby Los Angeles International Airport range between 8,900 and nearly 13,000 feet.
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