FAA orders inspection of jet engines like those in Southwest accident

Posted April 22, 2018

Engine maker CFM International on Friday recommended the ultrasonic inspections on fan blades that have been used in more than 30,000 cycles.

There were calls for inspections of the engines at the time, but regulators did not publish a directive.

U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018.

A memorial service is scheduled for an Albuquerque woman who died after an in-flight accident on a Southwest Airlines plane.

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The FAA said: "Fan blade failure due to cracking could result in an engine in-flight shutdown, uncontained release of debris and possible airplane decompression". After reaching a certain age, the engines should be inspected approximately every two years, the manufacturer said.

The EAD comes after a fan blade on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 snapped off mid-flight, spraying shrapnel that punctured the aircraft's fuselage causing depressurization. The metal fatigue would not have been observable by looking at the engine from the outside, Sumwalt said.

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Videos posted on social media showed passengers grabbing for oxygen masks and screaming as the plane, piloted by Tammie Jo Shults, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, prepared for the descent into Philadelphia.

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Pieces of the engine including its cowling - which covers its inner workings - were found about 60 miles (100 km) from Philadelphia airport, Sumwalt said. That incident prompted the FAA to propose previous year that similar fan blades undergo ultrasonic inspections and be replaced if they failed.

The Southwest Airlines aircraft, which was flying from NY to Dallas and had 149 passengers on board, was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Dallas-based airline agreed with that timeline, but CFM International said it should only take 12 months.

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