FAA orders emergency engine checks after Southwest fatality

Phillips spent 20 minutes trying to save Riordan after the passenger was nearly pulled out of the plane
Phillips spent 20 minutes trying to save Riordan after the passenger was nearly pulled out of the plane
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22 April, 2018

A fan blade in one of the engines failed Tuesday morning on Southwest Flight 1380, and shrapnel killed a passenger.

Bank executive Jennifer Riordan died after being sucked half-out of a USA passenger jet flying at 32,000 feet when shrapnel from a blown engine smashed a cabin window. At issue are the engine fan blades on Boeing 737-600, 700, 800 and 900 jets.

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. The directive stipulates that these inspections must be completed within the next 20 days. Family, friends and community leaders are mourning the death of Riordan, a bank executive on a Southwest Airlines jet that blew an engine as she was flying home from a business trip to NY.

The emergency airworthiness directive will require airlines to perform an ultrasonic inspection of certain CFM56-7B engines within 20 days of receipt of the order, it said.

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The CFM International service bulletin also called for airlines to repeat these inspections every 3,000 cycles or two years.

The FAA had proposed inspections last August and was going through the complicated rule-making process to get an order in place. The jet, which was headed from NY to Dallas, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

In the earlier case, a fan blade fractured and broke loose, bouncing in front of the engine's protective cover and then striking the plane, causing it to lose pressure. She later died at a hospital.

The new inspection is to be done while the engine is on the aircraft's wing. More than 150 of those have already been checked, it said. CFM recommends that airlines use an ultrasound device, which can detect small cracks beneath the surface. The death marked first passenger fatality for the Dallas-based airline in its 47-year history.


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