updated 8/30/2007 7:07:41 PM ET 2007-08-30T23:07:41

A Southwest Airlines jet has been fixed and returned to service after a bird strike tore a 6-inch hole in the skin of the plane and damaged part of the tail section, the carrier said Thursday.

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Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz told The Associated Press that nobody was hurt and at no time was the safety of the crew or customers in jeopardy.

Flight 23 took off Saturday morning from El Paso, bound for Dallas.

A large bird hit the Boeing 737 shortly after takeoff, at less than 10,000 feet, according to Mainz.

No emergency was declared, but the pilot returned to El Paso as a precaution. Passengers were booked on other flights.

"He couldn't see the damage, but knew that it was something he wanted to have our mechanics take a closer look at," Mainz said.

The damage to the fuselage turned out to be on the underside of the jet, toward the front, according to Mainz. The other damage was a minor tear in the horizontal stabilizer on the left rear of the plane.

The jet was fixed and returned to service within 24 hours, he said.

Bird strikes are common, but it was "extremely rare for that to occur," to have a tear in the skin of the plane, Mainz said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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