FAA Orders Emergency Inspections Of 352 Engines Following Deadly Southwest Incident

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

The move came days after one of those engines on a Southwest Airlines jet exploded in midair, leading to the death of a female passenger and injuries of seven others.

The coordinated 20-day measure partially resolves a gap in previous responses to the 2016 accident by the world's two largest and most influential aviation regulators, a person familiar with the discussions said and published documents show.

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. Regulators in other countries generally follow the FAA's lead. The Southwest plane was a Boeing 737 equipped with an engine made by CFM International.

Investigators said the blade that broke off mid-flight and triggered the fatal accident was showing signs of metal fatigue - microscopic cracks from repeated use.

The passenger, Jennifer Riordan, 43, later died.

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.

Whether the proposed FAA rule, had it been implemented, would have detected damage to the fan blade that failed is not known.

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.

Prior to the emergency order, CFM International, manufacturer of the engines, had issued guidelines for the ultrasonic inspections.

CFM also recommended that fan blades with more than 20,000 cycles be inspected by the end of August - affecting an additional 2,500 engines. The airline also complained that the recommendation did not account for the fans that were already inspected and the findings rate, advocating a more "data-informed AD compliance time". In that 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.

The manufacturer told CNN it has been working with the FAA on the inspection procedures. The agency announced on Wednesday it would issue those orders within weeks. Airlines say the number of engines needing blade inspections will be much higher, partly because since last summer more engines have hit the number of flights triggering an inspection.

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