The FAA plans to issue a new airworthiness directive after
the engine failure on a Southwest jet Tuesday that led to the first fatality
aboard an American passenger airliner since 2009.
The directive, the agency said, would come in the next two
weeks and will require inspections of CFM56-7B engines. The directive will
require an ultrasonic inspection of fan blades when they reach a certain number
of takeoff and landings. Blades that fail the inspection will have to be
The engine that failed on Southwest flight 1380 Tuesday
showed signs of metal fatigue. The fatality occurred after one of the fan
blades separated from the engine, sending debris through an aircraft window.
The deceased passenger, identified as Albuquerque bank
executive Jennifer Riordan, died after being partially sucked out the window.
Though its timing is clearly related to this week's
Southwest engine failure, the directive to be issued by the FAA will actually
be the conclusion of a rulemaking process that began in August of last year.
The agency proposed an airworthiness directive at that time that stemmed from a
similar incident involving a Southwest CFM56 engine in August 2016. During that
event, a fan blade separated from the engine due to what the National Transportation
Safety Board said appeared to be metal fatigue.
CFM engines are made by CFM International, a joint venture
between GE Aviation and France-based Safran Aircraft Engines. More than 8,000
CFM56-7B are in service on Boeing 737 aircraft, according to CFM.
Southwest said Tuesday that it will conduct ultrasonic
inspections of all CFM56 engine fan blades over the next month.