Cause of pressure loss on WestJet flight investigated

Jan. 12, 2014 at 10:22 AM

RAPID CITY, S.D., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- WestJet Airlines said it was investigating a loss of cabin pressure that forced one of its planes to make an emergency landing in South Dakota this weekend.

The Canadian airline's Flight 1343 with 43 passengers and crew landed safely in Rapid City after making a rapid descent and deploying its emergency oxygen masks while on a flight from Phoenix to Winnipeg Friday night.

"We will do our investigation to determine what happen," WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer told the Winnipeg Free Press. Palmer said the airline had dispatched a maintenance crew to from Calgary Rapid City to correct the problem and fly the Boeing 737-700 back to Alberta City.

"Indicator lights came on ... the pilots became aware of a malfunction in the cabin pressurization system," Palmer said. "They declared an emergency and began a rapid descent that would have taken a couple of minutes to get to 10,000 feet, which is a more comfortable elevation."

The "rapid descent" was disconcerting to many passengers, including Jade Repeta of Toronto who told the Free Press: "After a few seconds, the plastic masks fell down. I got mine on... I looked at other people and they all had the same expression -- shock."

None of the passengers was injured and many spent an unanticipated night and day in Rapid City before being placed aboard other flights Saturday.

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