Sunday, 27 May, 2018

FAA orders emergency jet engine inspections after U.S. plane failure

Engine manufacturer, FAA call for immediate inspections after Southwest Airlines fatality FAA expected to order accelerated engine checks after Southwest accident
Lillian Steele | 21 April, 2018, 10:26

A Southwest Boeing 737-700 flying from New York City to Dallas suffered an uncontained engine failure Tuesday that appears to have been caused by a broken fan blade in the engine turbine.

On Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Robert Sumwalt, the chief investigator of U.S. aviation accidents, said he could not yet say if the incident pointed to a fleet-wide issue.

The engine is built by CFM International, a partnership between General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines, a French company.

Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, was killed Tuesday when the engine exploded.

Shortly before the FAA order Friday, CFM recommended inspections for engines with 30,000 cycles be conducted within 20 days, as well as inspections of engines with 20,000 cycles by August.

Furthermore, the directive states that operators must complete this verification within 20 days.

Ms Riordan was the first passenger to die in an accident on a USA commercial airliner since 2009. A cycle is a unit measure for airplane use and runs from take-off to shut down after landing, CNBC notes. The metal fatigue would not have been observable by looking at the engine from the outside, Sumwalt said.

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

"It happens that there are disagreements about the right way to go in some cases, and this was one of them", the person familiar with the discussions said.

The Federal Aviation Administration, a regulatory authority, said Wednesday it would publish "within two weeks" a mandatory directive for the engines.

The FAA directive is broader in scope than the proposal introduced past year.

United Continental Holdings (UAL.N) said that it had begun inspections earlier after a recommendation from CFM.

The CFM bulletin, also issued on Friday, recommends that the CFM56-7B fan blades be examined with an ultrasonic probe - a procedure that lasts for four hours per each of the airplanes' engines and which can be performed without removing the engines from the aircrafts' wings.

Approximately 14,000 CFM56-7B engines are in operation.

The European order requires that after the first inspection, airlines should keep repeating the process every 3,000 cycles, which typically represents about two years in service.

The manufacturer of the jet engine that blew apart at 32,000 feet in a deadly accident aboard a Southwest Airlines flight wants more jets to be inspected for potential problems.

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