FAA orders inspections of more jet engines

Randal Sanchez
April 21, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the engine fan blades snapped on the Southwest jet Tuesday, hurling debris that broke a window and led to the death of a passenger who was sucked partway out of the 737.

"The inspections ordered are a sharp step-up from actions by both the European and United States regulators after a Southwest flight in August 2016 made a safe emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida, after a fan blade separated from the same type of engine and debris ripped a hole above the left wing".

A fan blade broke off in flight Tuesday on the CFM56-7B engine, triggering a chain of events that shattered a window on 737.

Bank executive Jennifer Riordan died after being sucked half-out of a U.S. passenger jet flying at 32,000 feet when shrapnel from a blown engine smashed a cabin window. It was the first death in a USA commercial aviation accident since 2009. Specifically, engines that have made more than 30,000 trips must undergo inspections within 20 days.

For photos and b-roll of the Southwest's ongoing ultrasonic inspections of CFM engine fan blades on our Next Generation Fleet, we invite media to visit swamedia.com for stills and video of our ongoing inspection process. More than 150 of those have already been checked by operators, it said.

It is not clear how many takeoff-and-landing cycles the engine in Tuesday's accident had gone through and whether it would have been covered by the FAA directive.

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Federal safety investigators have said the naked eye can not detect the cracks and signs of metal fatigue that doomed the engine on Southwest Flight 1380.

At issue are engines made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France's Safran SA.

"We are issuing this AD because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design", the directive said.

After reaching a certain age, the engines should be inspected approximately every two years, the manufacturer said.

A similar accident on a Southwest flight in August 2016 forced a plane, equipped with the same engine, to make an emergency landing. Inspections take between two and four hours per engine, according to the FAA and manufacturer.

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