FAA orders more engine inspections after Southwest accident


Associated Press

The Federal Aviation Administration today ordered ultrasound inspections of hundreds of jet engines like the one that blew apart at 32,000 feet in a deadly accident aboard a Southwest Airlines plane.

The agency said the order affects 352 engines on new-generation Boeing 737s, a twin-engine jet that is a workhorse of the aviation industry, used by airlines around the world.

The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the engine fan blades snapped on the Southwest jet Tuesday, hurling debris that broke a window and led to the death of a passenger who was sucked partway out of the 737.

NTSB investigators said the fan blade was showing signs of metal fatigue — cracks from repeated use that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. The FAA's action reflected concerns that more planes could have faulty blades.

At issue are engines made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France's Safran SA. Under the FAA order, all CFM 56-7B engines that have gone through at least 30,000 takeoffs or landings must be inspected within 20 days.

It is not clear how many cycles the engine in Tuesday's accident had gone through and whether it would have been covered by the FAA directive.

Last June, CFM issued a service bulletin to its customers recommending inspections of some of its engines. Then, on Friday, the manufacturer went further than the FAA, recommending inspections by the end of August of all engines that have gone through at least 20,000 flights. The FAA said it will consider matching CFM's recommendation.

"As we learn of additional information from this most recent incident, we will consider further mandatory action as appropriate," the federal agency said in a statement.

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