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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

US and Europe order global 737 aircraft engine checks

Inspectors will examine about 680 engines similar to the one involved in a fatal Southwest Airlines accident

US NTSB investigators examine damage to a Southwest Airlines plane. NTSB / Handout via Reuters
US NTSB investigators examine damage to a Southwest Airlines plane. NTSB / Handout via Reuters

European and US airline regulators have ordered mandatory inspections within 20 days of aircraft engines similar to one involved in a fatal Southwest Airlines accident.

Engine maker CFM International on Friday recommended the ultrasonic inspections on fan blades that have been used in more than 30,000 cycles. The US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Administration are making those recommendations into requirements. A cycle includes one take-off and landing.

The inspections recommended within the next 20 days will affect about 680 engines globally, US regulators said.

US National Transportation Safety Board investigators earlier this week said that a broken fan blade touched off the engine explosion on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 on Tuesday that shattered a window, killing a passenger. It was the first death in a US commercial aviation accident since 2009.

Bank executive Jennifer Riordan died after being sucked half-out of a US passenger jet flying at 32,000 feet when shrapnel from a blown engine smashed a cabin window.

Fellow passengers grabbed Ms Riordan, 43, and dragged her back into the plane, then tried to plug the hole after the sudden loss of cabin pressure.

The pilot took the Dallas-bound twin-engined Boeing 737 with 149 people aboard into a steep descent as passengers using oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling said their prayers and braced for impact. The plane, flying from New York, landed safely in Philadelphia.

Ms Riordan, a mother of two from New Mexico, died despite attempts to revive her on the flight. Seven others suffered minor injuries.

A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine showed evidence of "metal fatigue," said US transport officials.

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CFM, jointly owned by General Electric and France’s Safran, also recommended inspections by the end of August for fan blades with 20,000 cycles, and inspections of all other fan blades when they reach 20,000 cycles.

After the first inspection, airlines should keep repeating the process every 3,000 cycles, which typically represents about two years in service.

More than 150 have already been inspected.

Inspections recommended by the end of August will affect an additional 2,500 engines.

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