This Is What a Broken Airplane Window Looks Like, and It's Terrifying

The Southwest Airlines incident led to an emergency landing.


A Southwest Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing on Wednesday after a passenger window broke. The Boeing 737-700 was flying 26,000 feet above Lake Erie at a speed of 514 mph when it made a split-second change of route to land after the fault was discovered.

“The flight landed uneventfully in Cleveland,” a spokesperson for the airline told the New York Post. “The aircraft has been taken out of service for maintenance review, and our local Cleveland Employees are working diligently to accommodate the 76 customers on a new aircraft to Newark.”

Airplane windows take an incredible amount of force to break. Rob DeCosta, a mechanical engineer, explained on Quora in December 2012 that a window built to withstand the bare minimum force required by the Federal Aviation Administration can stand up to 4,900 pounds of force. A 1990 test from the administration found a window could take a normal force of 2,100 pounds. A professional boxer can only punch around 1,400 pounds, which is double that of the average person.

In the case of Southwest Airlines flight 957 on Wednesday, the airline claims it was not technically an emergency, as only one pane of the window broke. After it left Chicago Midway Airport on its way to Newark Airport, it landed two hours later at 11 a.m. at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. No passengers were injured.

Passengers shared clips from the incident on Twitter:

The incident comes just two weeks after a similar one with the same airline. Flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia Airport on April 17 but had to make an emergency landing 20 minutes after takeoff after debris from the engine broke a window. Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old passenger aboard the flight, was partially sucked out and subsequently died.