Southwest Flight 1380 Landed at 190 MPH, Plus Latest NTSB Updates

Apr 18, 2018

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Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), gave a brief update Wednesday afternoon on the investigation into Southwest Flight 1380.

Sumwalt spoke at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) for about 20 minutes, explaining that preliminary data shows the plane’s vibration increased after the engine blew, and that the aircraft did an uncommanded right bank roll at 41 degrees. He praised the pilots’ presence of mind in bringing the Boeing 737-700 safely to ground at an airspeed of 190 mph, 34 mph faster than the usual landing speed.

“The pilots seemed very calm and assured of what they were doing,” said Sumwalt, who is a former pilot himself. “My hat is off to them … they behaved in a matter their training prepared them for.”

The NTSB newsroom also live-Tweeted a few images of engine parts that have been found on the ground in Pennsylvania, urging anyone who finds additional pieces to email the Board at witness@ntsb.gov and notify local law authorities in order to help with the investigation.

The transcript from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder will be publicly shared when the transcript is complete, Sumwalt said, a process that will take days to compile since the original audio files will come from at least two different sources. Part of the investigation will also involve interviewing the pilots, who are trained to handle engine failure, rapid decompression and emergency landings such as this one.

Sumwalt also said that this press briefing will be the last one given from the Philadelphia airport, and that the investigation has “a long way to go,” with updates provided on the NTSB website and social media accounts.

Specific to preliminary findings, Sumwalt said that the Board had discovered a metal fatigue fracture where the #13 fan blade would have gone into the left side engine. The missing blade, which separated into two pieces, was the initiating event that caused a secondary failure of the jet engine. Wall Street Journal aerospace reporter Robert Wall retweeted Sumwalt’s statement that the crack was on the blade’s interior, and not immediately noticeable from a visual inspection.

Finally, Sumwalt said that if the NTSB finds any concern over the jet fleet or engine, it will issue a warning as soon as possible. He stressed it’s still too early to make that judgment.

Featured photo courtesy of the NTSB

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