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Southwest Airlines

Mass inspections after mid-air explosion

The US demands inspections of all fan blades on all CFM56-7B engines with a certain number of flights.

Following the tragic incident on a Southwest Airlines flight, in which an apparent broken fan blade caused an engine explosion, smashing a window and killing a passenger, the US Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the inspection of 220 aircraft engines.

The air-worthiness directive demands an ultrasonic inspection within six months, of all the fan blades on all CFM56-7B engines that have chalked up a certain number of flights, the news agency Reuters reports.

The CFM56 engine blew about 20 minutes after take-off, sending pieces of metal ripping into the fuselage.

In an interview on the network CNBC, former Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune said that this particular engine is “the most reliable in the world”, adding: “I can’t think of a better one.”

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a press conference that one of the engine’s 24 fan blades snapped off its hub. Investigators found that the blade had suffered metal fatigue at the site of the break.

“We want to very carefully understand what was the result of this problem,” Sumwalt said. “I’m very concerned about this particular event.”

Hero pilot
Southwest has already begun inspecting similar engines, made by a partnership of General Electric and France’s Safran, focusing on the 400 to 600 oldest. It is the second time that this kind of engine has failed on a Southwest aircraft in the last two years.

Meanwhile, the female pilot of the plane, Tammie Jo Shults, an experienced former US navy fighter pilot, is being hailed a hero for stopping an immediate loss of altitude and severe banking to one side and then guiding the plane down safely in an emergency landing.

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