Southwest engine failure: FAA orders inspections of more jet engines

Ann Santiago
April 22, 2018

His wife nodded that it was OK for Needum to leave his family to help the injured woman.

Jennifer Riordan, 43 and a mother of two, was sucked out of the broken window and pulled back inside by fellow passengers. The plane, flying from NY, landed safely in Philadelphia.

"I'm trained for emergency situations, and that's exactly what it was", Needum said. "I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that they lived in", an emotional Needum told reporters. Riordan, who was in a window seat in Row 14, was wearing a seat belt.

Riordan was a Wells Fargo banking executive and well-known community volunteer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the company said. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating.

A similar accident on a Southwest flight in August 2016 forced a plane, equipped with the same engine, to make an emergency landing.

The CFM bulletin, also issued on Friday, recommends that the CFM56-7B fan blades be examined with an ultrasonic probe - a procedure that lasts for four hours per each of the airplanes' engines and which can be performed without removing the engines from the aircrafts' wings.

The FAA proposed making the recommendation mandatory in August but never issued a final decision.

The guidelines from the manufacturer, CFM International, call for ultrasonic inspections - which can detect flaws or cracks not visible to the unaided human eye - within the next 20 days to fan blades on engines with more than 30,000 cycles. The SB recommends inspections at different thresholds for all blades, with the highest-time blades-those with 30,000 or more cycles-needing inspections immediately.

American Airlines has about 300 planes with that type of engine, and Delta has about 185. The blast shattered a window, killing a passenger, in the first United States passenger airline fatality since 2009. The investigation could take 12 to 15 months to complete.

Delta, with 370 of the same engines on its fleet of 737s, says it completed inspections of the engines a year ago, and is now ahead of FAA directives on the ultrasonic testing.

"In the old days, we would have had an airworthiness directive and we would be doing the work on the engines right now". A spokeswoman said it was a visual inspection.

The CFM56-7B is one of the most common engines in the sky being fitted to Boeings Next Generation 737's (-600/-700/-800 &-900) and they have an extremely good safety record and events involving cracked blades are extremely rare.

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