INCIDENT: Southwest 737 Loses Engine Cowling!

By Spyros Georgilidakis | August 15, 2022

The pilots and ground crew of a Southwest 737 faced an unusual situation last week, when an aircraft lost a cowling in St. Louis, Missouri.

Photo: Johnnyw3, CC BY-SA 4.0

The summer season brings many challenges to pilots, cabin crews, and maintenance personnel. Those mainly involve a lack of resources in this return to some sort of normal level of demand. But sometimes there are other issues, keeping all crews on their toes. This 737 cowling incident happened on Friday the 12th of August.

The incident involved flight WN-1721. Southwest performs this service six times per week, departing at 6:25 am from Orlando International (KMCO) in Florida, United States. This domestic service goes to St. Louis Lambert International (KSTL) in Missouri. The flight typically takes about two hours. We don’t know how many passengers and crew were on board.

INCIDENT: Southwest 737 Loses Engine Cowling!
The incident aircraft. Photo: Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0


The 737 Cowling Came Off?

Also, it is unclear if there was any pre-existing problem with this 737, that might have caused this cowling issue. It appears that the flight took off from Orlando with a 15-minute delay, using runway 35L. Early in its cruise, the aircraft reached FL390, before making an early descent to FL380, FL340, and eventually FL300.

When they got closer to their destination, the flight crew set up an approach to runway 11 in St. Louis. It is not clear if the crew had an issue during the landing itself. But according to an FAA statement, the “COWLING CAME OFF” the 737, as it landed. Available flight tracking data doesn’t suggest that the aircraft stopped on the runway after landing.

INCIDENT: Southwest 737 Loses Engine Cowling!
The incident aircraft. Photo: elisfkc, CC BY-SA 2.0

Rather, the aircraft appears to have taxied to a gate normally. But as of this writing, it is still in St. Louis, about three and a half days after the incident. However, it seems that the airline is planning to use it on a morning flight on Tuesday the 16th of August. So it would appear that this cowling incident did not cause more serious damage to the fuselage of the 737.

This aircraft is a Boeing 737-700, with tail number N791SW. It first flew in December of 2000, being nearly 22 years old. Southwest Airlines is its only operator.


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