Nation & World

FAA requires inspections of additional 737 engines after Southwest accident

Announcement calls for regular inspections about every two years

A U.S. NTSB investigator is on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS
A U.S. NTSB investigator is on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said it was implementing rules requiring additional inspections of fan blades in engines similar to the one that failed in a deadly Southwest Airlines accident last month in Pennsylvania.

The new rules follow an emergency directive issued last month by the FAA and European regulators requiring the inspection of nearly 700 engines CFM56-7B worldwide within 20 days on Boeing 737 NG airplanes.

The FAA said another group of CFM56-7B engines will need to be inspected by August under the regulation. The agency also said it is requiring repeat inspections of engines as part of Tuesday’s action.

The April 17 engine explosion on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 was caused by a fan blade that broke off, the FAA said. The blast shattered a window, killing a passenger who was partially sucked out the window, in the first U.S. passenger airline fatality since 2009.

The FAA said an “unsafe condition exists that requires the immediate adoption” of the rule without a chance for public comment in a notice posted in the federal register.

CFM, which is jointly owned by General Electric Co and France’s Safran, produces the CFM56 engine in factories in the United States and Europe.

The emergency action last month by the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency required ultrasonic inspections on fan blades that have been used in more than 30,000 cycles, or in service for about 20 years, within 20 days. A cycle includes one takeoff and landing.

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The announcement by the FAA on Tuesday requires inspections by August of CFM engines with 20,000 cycles of use — and then regular inspections for fan blades every additional 3,000 cycles, or about every two years. European regulators on April 20 adopted the actions taken by the FAA on Tuesday.

The announcement comes the same day U.S. President Donald Trump is to meet with passengers and the flight crew at the White House of Southwest Flight 1380.

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