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Emergency landings because of cracked windows? We’re answering your questions

Another airline problem had you asking questions. We talk to an expert.

Another broken window on a Southwest Airlines flight caused scary moments for passengers on Flight 957 heading from Chicago to Newark. The plane made an emergency landing in Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon.

Looking at comments online, many say they don’t want to fly Southwest again.

That got us thinking: Is this a Southwest Airlines problem or is this an aviation problem?

This comes just weeks after the engine of another Southwest Airlines plane blew, injuring seven people and killing a woman who was nearly sucked out of the airplane through a window.

We took several of your top concerns to aviation expert Mark Weinkrantz, who has more than 30 years’ experience flying commercial airlines.

When we asked Weinkrantz if Wednesday's window crack could have led to as big of a disaster as the previous one, he said no.

“It’s a completely different scenario," he said. "The last window that they lost was because shrapnel came off the engine and penetrated it, causing a massive failure of the window. A cracked window like this is not totally unheard of. It’s fairly rare, but not as rare as shrapnel taking out a window."

Many of you also wanted to know: how strong are these windows?

Weinkrantz explained the window of an airplane is made up of three layers. The first one closest to you is called the inner pane. It’s a cosmetic clear plastic to protect the middle and outer levels, which are much stronger. Weinkrantz says the middle pane alone is strong enough to support pressure within the airplane.

He says there is any number of reasons why the outer pane of the window could crack.

“They are exposed to chemicals like deicing fluids. They are polished from time to time because they get glazed and that will make the material a little thinner. But this was an exit door window, so there’s the potential that the door was open, closed and slammed, and that might have created a small hairline crack in the window, but there is no way of knowing”

Those are all things the FAA and NTSB are investigating.

Lastly, you wanted to know if this wasn’t an emergency, then what is?

Weinkrantz says the windshield cracking midflight would be an emergency, or any type of mechanical failure causing an engine to blow would be an emergency.

He says there’s no reason to worry about sitting next to a window because incidents like this are so rare. He says if Southwest wouldn’t have had its disaster a couple weeks ago, this likely wouldn’t have made the news.

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