Southwest engine failure prompts feds to order emergency inspections

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380

Facebook MartyMartinezJennifer Riordan was partially sucked out of the window as the plane depressurised

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.

An initial investigation found evidence of metal fatigue where a fan blade had broken off, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The agency says its order affects 352 engines in the US and another 681 worldwide on "new generation" Boeing 737 jets.

Bank executive Jennifer Riordan, 43, was killed when she was partially pulled through the gaping hole as the cabin suffered rapid decompression.

It's an engine built by General Electric and a French partner, and is one of the most popular jet engines in commercial aviation and powers the Boeing 737.

The EAD comes after the CFM56-7B engine manufacturer, CFM International, released a service bulletin calling for more rigid testing of this type of engine, the FAA explained.

In response to the FAA inspection order, Southwest said in a statement that its existing "maintenance program meets or exceeds all the requirements specified". The death marked first passenger fatality for the Dallas-based airline in its 47-year history. The incident raised a number of questions because jet engines are certified to be able to withstand a broken fan blade without causing major damage. The emergency inspections apply to 681 engines worldwide, including 352 in the United States.

A cycle concerns a complete flight, from engine start to takeoff and landing to complete shutdown.

"It happens that there are disagreements about the right way to go in some cases, and this was one of them", the person familiar with the discussions said. Investigators study the probable cause of single accidents and recommend possible changes to safety rules, while regulators have to assess whether safety risks could appear.

Airlines using engines like the one that failed on a Southwest Airlines flight over Pennsylvania this week have 20 days to perform an inspection that could spot a flaw that likely led to the incident, federal authorities ordered Friday.

Southwest, which had opposed efforts by the engine maker past year to shorten the FAA's earlier proposed deadline, on Friday said its maintenance program meets or exceeds the new requirements. The CFM56-7B debuted in 1997 and now powers more than 6,700 planes in the world.

About 680 engines are concerned, according to CFM, which noted that each inspection takes about four hours.

Inspections recommended by the end of August will affect an additional 2,500 engines.

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