The investigation into a deadly engine failure on a Southwest jet is focusing on whether wear and tear caused a fan blade to snap off, triggering a catastrophic chain of events that killed a passenger and broke a string of eight years without a fatal accident involving a US airliner.
Southwest said in its submission on the federal website it would have to inspect some 732 engines in one of two categories of engines under review - much higher than the FAA's total estimate of 220 engines needing to be inspected across the whole US fleet.
Other airlines commenting on last year's FAA proposal projected higher costs in time and money than regulators initially expected, because they did not closely track the fan blade.
In the next two weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration will order the inspection of at least 220 Boeing 737 engines following a deadly engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday.
Investigators will focus on whether the fan blade broke off at cruising speed - around 500 miles per hour - and started an "uncontained" engine failure that sent debris flying like shrapnel into the plane, where it broke a window.
Federal investigators were still trying to determine how a window came out of the plane, killing the woman seated next to it who was wearing a seatbelt. She died later from her injuries.
The flight, traveling from New York City to Dallas, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after disaster struck. His wife nodded that it was OK for Needum to leave his family to help the injured woman.
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The official cause of death for Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old Wells Fargo executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was recorded as "blunt trauma impact". "I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that they lived in", an emotional Needum told reporters.
Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk gone from the left engine, including part of its cover. Then she heard commotion a few rows behind her.
Investigators say a fan blade snapped off as Southwest Flight 1380 cruised at 500 miles per hour high above Pennsylvania on Tuesday, setting off a catastrophic chain of events that killed a woman and broke a string of eight straight years without a fatal accident involving a U.S. airliner.
A NTSB inspection crew was also combing over the Boeing 737-700 for signs of what caused the engine to explode.
Airlines said that because fan blades may have been repaired and moved to other engines, the order would affect far more than 220 of the CFM56-7Bs, which are made by a partnership of France's Safran and General Electric.
Former NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker said in an interview the safety board will look at why the FAA had not already mandated the inspections that it had proposed in August 2017.
FAA will issue an airworthiness directive (AD) in the next two weeks requiring inspections of certain CFM56-7B turbofan engines, the U.S. agency announced one day after the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 engine failure. Blades that fail will have to be replaced, the agency said.
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There are several types of inspections that airline planes must go through, ranging from an "A check", which is done about every eight to 10 weeks, to more-rigorous B, C and D checks. Last year, the FAA estimated that an order would cover 220 engines on USA airlines. But the airline said without tracking blade numbers, it would have to inspect 732 more engines to comply.
Southwest announced its own program for similar inspections of its 700-plane fleet over the next month.
American Airlines said in a statement that after the FAA notice was published, it "voluntarily began inspections of CFM56-7B fan blades". A manufacturing flaw might leave the metal weaker than intended, as happened with a disc in an American Airlines engine in October 2016. It will not be clear until the FAA issues its rule how many will need inspections.
Tuesday's accident broke a string of eight straight years without a fatal accident involving a USA passenger airliner.
Sumwalt expressed concern about such a destructive engine failure but said he would not yet draw broad conclusions about the safety of CFM56 engines or the entire fleet of Boeing 737s, the most popular airliner ever built.
It is unknown whether the FAA's original directive would have forced Southwest to quickly inspect the engine that blew up. She said the company had satisfied the terms of the CFM service bulletin but did not immediately answer questions about how many engines had been inspected and whether the failed engine had been inspected.
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