FAA Orders Engine Inspections Following Deadly Southwest Explosion

Apr 19, 2018

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The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that it’s requiring inspections on engine fan blades like that on the Southwest Airlines engine, which snapped off, leading to the death of one woman who was partially sucked out of a blownout window.

Wednesday’s order, called an air-worthiness directive, from the FAA requires some 220 jet engines to undergo an ultrasonic inspection. During the next six months, the fan blades of all CFM56-7B engines that have operated a certain number of cycles (takeoff and landing) will be required to be inspected. Any blades that fail the inspection will be replaced.

The move to issue an air-worthiness directive comes after years of pressure on the FAA. In 2016, an incident also involving Southwest Airlines in which a CFM56 engine failed because of metal fatigue, the engine’s manufacturer, CFM, recommended that airlines perform additional inspections on the fan blades on those engines. And just last month, European regulators implemented required inspections on CFM engines, which are some of the most widely used engines on both Boeing 737s and members of the Airbus A320 family.

Tuesday’s fatal incident on board Southwest Flight 1380 also involved a CFM56-7B engine, which blew apart about 20 minutes into the flight. The explosion sent shrapnel toward the fuselage of the aircraft, ultimately shattering a window. One passenger, Jennifer Riordan, was killed after she was partially pulled through the open window.

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