FAA orders more inspections of jet engines
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered ultrasound inspections of hundreds of jet engines like the one that blew apart at 32,000 feet in a deadly accident aboard a Southwest Airlines plane.
The agency said the order affects 352 engines in the U.S. on new-generation twin-engine Boeing 737s, a workhorse jet widely used by airlines around the world.
The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the engine fan blades snapped on the Southwest flight Tuesday, hurling debris that broke a window and led to the death of a passenger who was sucked partway out of the 737. The jet, which was headed from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
NTBS investigators said the fan blade that broke off was showing signs of metal fatigue – cracks from repeated use that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.
At issue are engines made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA. Under the FAA order, all CFM 56-7B engines that have gone through at least 30,000 flights during their lifetime must be inspected within 20 days.
It is not clear how many takeoff-and-landing cycles the engine in Tuesday’s accident had gone through and whether it would have been covered by the FAA directive.
Last June, CFM issued a service bulletin to its customers recommending inspections of some of its engines. Then, on Friday, the manufacturer went further than the FAA, recommending inspections by the end of August of all engines that have gone through at least 20,000 flights.
The FAA said it will consider ordering expanded action “as we learn of additional information from this most recent incident.”
Altogether, CFM 56-7B engines are on about 1,800 of the 737s in service in the U.S. and about 6,400 worldwide.
Meanwhile, Southwest has sent a letter of apology, a $5,000 check and a $1,000 travel voucher to passengers who were on the flight.
“Please accept our deepest apologies,” Chairman Gary Kelly wrote in a letter dated April 18, a day after the accident.
Passenger Marty Martinez of Dallas said he has no immediate plan to cash the check. He wants to talk to a lawyer.
“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime,” he said Friday as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.
Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, said he did not have a problem with the letter. He said he appreciated he would not have to file claim forms.