Feds want redesign of part on Boeing 737s after Southwest engine blowout


Southwest / Texas 20 Views

By The Associated Press

Federal safety officials say Boeing should redesign part of the casing on some engines to prevent the kind of accident that occurred when engine debris blew out a window on a Southwest Airlines plane and killed a passenger.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday that the April 2018 accident was caused by a cracked fan blade that broke off in flight, hitting the engine case at a critical location. Parts of the engine turned into shrapnel, striking the fuselage.

After a harrowing emergency descent from 32,000 feet (9,750 meters), with one passenger blown partly out of the plane, the pilots of Southwest flight 1380 were able to land the crippled Boeing 737 in Philadelphia.

Safety board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said engine and aircraft manufacturers should develop stronger designs for engine casing to prevent broken fan blades from ever causing such catastrophic damage again.

“That translates to a better chance that damage to the aircraft will be minimized during a (broken fan blade) event, improving the safety of the flying public,” Sumwalt said.

The events of flight 1380 led to more frequent and intensive inspections of fan blades on certain engines made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA. Those checks at Southwest and other airlines turned up about 15 other fan blades with slowly spreading cracks from fatigue or wear during normal use.

A Southwest 737 suffered a similar engine break-up in 2016, but pilots landed safely in Pensacola, Florida. NTSB investigator Pierre Scarfo said the board found no evidence to believe that the fan blade problem was unique to maintenance or operations at Southwest, which has the world’s largest 737 fleet. However, earlier this year the Transportation Department’s inspector general cited the Philadelphia incident among the reasons that it was reviewing government oversight of the airline.

On Tuesday, the NTSB recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require Boeing to determine the most vulnerable locations on the engine fan case on certain planes if a fan blade breaks loose, and to redesign the cowling for better structural integrity. The board also recommended that airlines be required to retrofit many older Boeing 737s with the redesigned engine-housing part.