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Published: Sun, April 22, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

FAA orders engine inspections after Southwest incident

FAA orders engine inspections after Southwest incident

Jennifer Riordan, 43, was partially sucked out of the Southwest plane when the Boeing 737-700's engine exploded mid-flight and its debris smashed a window. She died from blunt force trauma at a hospital after the plane's emergency landing in Philadelphia.

CFM56-7B engines with fewer than 30,000 cycles will have to be inspected within 133 days, EASA said.

Engine maker CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran, issued a service bulletin recommending stepped-up checks because the fan blades on the engine that failed on Tuesday would not have been covered for immediate inspections under the previous standards.

'Fan blade failure due to cracking, if not addressed, could result in an engine in-flight shutdown (IFSD), uncontained release of debris, damage to the engine, damage to the airplane and possible airplane decompression, ' the U.S. regulatory authority said.

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

The FAA is requiring inspections to be completed within the next 20 days. Seven others suffered minor injuries. "We would do a very methodical investigation", NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Investigators are still probing what caused the explosion and the plane had been tested for safety just three days before the catastrophe. CFM also urged the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an Airworthiness Directive to ensure prompt compliance with the recommended inspections. Despite the support from the pilots' association for inspections, Southwest and some other airlines pushed back hard against the requirement.

The CFM bulletin said airlines should repeat inspections of the fan blades every 3,000 cycles - about two years.

Southwest wrote in a statement that although it opposed the airworthiness directive proposed by CFM, it had nonetheless completed the inspections recommended by the manufacturer a year ago. Such inspections, noted The New York Times, can "detect flaws or cracks not visible to the unaided human eye".

Though aircraft engine failures are very rare and the CFM56-7B engine has an otherwise excellent safety record, the two apparently similar engine failures have left some aviation experts concerned.

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

"Injured passengers, okay, and is your airplane physically on fire?" asks a male voice in the tower, according to a recording released by officials.

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