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US Airways Plane Grounded After Hole Discovered in Fuselage

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Charlotte, NCA pilot doing a pre-flight inspection to his commercial aircraft discovered a small hole in the exterior fuselage of the plane, CNN reported late yesterday. The US Airways 737-400 was loading for a flight when the pilot noticed the breach in the plane's fuselage, and alerted authorities.

The plane was immediately grounded and taken out of service. Passengers on the plane were accommodated on other flights. The aircraft is rated for 144 passengers, although it is not known how many were on the plane at the time it was taken out of service.

According to the CNN report, the plane had landed safely yesterday (March 28) at about 4:00 pm at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. US Airways Flight 1161 was inbound from Philadelphia. It is assumed the breach occurred at some point between take-off at Philadelphia and when the plane rolled to a stop on the tarmac at Charlotte, although at this point that's just subjective.

The size and the nature of the hold hole were not disclosed. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating to determine just what may have caused the breach. The hole was described by the pilot as small, but there was no information beyond that. There was no disclosure as to the shape of the hole, and whether or not it might have been caused by a weapon.

It is not known if the breach extends to the interior of the plane. However, it is assumed that a breach in the exterior fuselage extending to the interior would have resulted in an immediate loss of pressurization in the cabin. There were no reports of such an incident when the plane was inbound from Philadelphia on March 28.

"During a pre-flight inspection, one of our captains noticed a small hole in the fuselage," said US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder. "Safety is paramount, so we took that aircraft out of service and our maintenance team is investigating," she said.

A spokesperson for the FBI in Charlotte confirmed that the federal agency had an evidence team at the scene, but it was not immediately known what caused the hole in the plane.

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