Feds rec­om­mend plane re­design af­ter woman’s death on 2018 South­west flight

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Jason Laugh­lin

WASH­ING­TON — Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties on Tues­day rec­om­mended a sweep­ing over­haul on some of the most com­monly used air­craft in the world af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a South­west Air­lines en­gine fail­ure last year over Penn­syl­va­nia that caused a pas­sen­ger’s death.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board rec­om­mended that the plane’s man­u­fac­turer, Boe­ing, re­design the fan cowl for planes that use the CFM56-7B en­gine, use the new de­sign on all its 737s — de­scribed by NTSB Chair­man Robert Sumwalt as “the most pop­u­lar sin­gle model out there” — and retro­fit older mod­els with the new de­sign.

More than 7,000 planes in ser­vice use that en­gine. The rec­om­men­da­tion must be adopted as a reg­u­la­tion by the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion to force Boe­ing to com­ply.

“It is not enough to just pre­vent the fail­ure; we must also ac­tively work to find ways to min­i­mize the ef­fects of a fail­ure if one does oc­cur,” Sumwalt said at a hear­ing Tues­day.

South­west Flight 1380, car­ry­ing 144 peo­ple and five crew mem­bers, was forced to make an emer­gency land­ing at Philadel­phia In­ter­na­tional Air­port on April 17, 2018, af­ter a fan blade in one of two en­gines snapped. Pieces shred­ded the cas­ing around the en­gine, which then struck the fuse­lage and shat­tered a win­dow at Row 14. The plane de­pres­sur­ized, caus­ing a pas­sen­ger, Jen­nifer

Rior­dan, 43, to be par­tially pulled through the hole. Two other pas­sen­gers helped pull her back in­side, but she died of her in­juries.

The plane had been bound for Love Field in Dal­las from LaGuardia Air­port in New York City.

“We want the FAA to move on these rec­om­men­da­tions,” Sumwalt said. “We feel they’re very crit­i­cal.”

A cas­cade of un­likely fail­ures led to tragedy on Flight 1380, the NTSB found. Re­peat­edly, pieces of the en­gine and the cowl­ing sur­round­ing it didn’t per­form as ex­pected, caus­ing the fed­eral in­ves­tiga­tive agency to rec­om­mend ei­ther new test­ing tech­niques or a re­turn to the draw­ing board for key com­po­nents.

Boe­ing is­sued a state­ment Tues­day that it would work to im­ple­ment changes to meet the NTSB’s rec­om­men­da­tions and was al­ready work­ing to re­design parts to be more re­silient to dam­age from a fan blade fail­ure.

“Our com­mon goal is to help pre­vent sim­i­lar events from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture,” the com­pany stated.

It did not in­clude an es­ti­mate on how long the work would take or how much it would cost.


Fire­fight­ers spray a South­west Air­lines plane with a dam­aged en­gine at Philadel­phia In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Philadel­phia, Pa., on April 17, 2018. The plane made an emer­gency land­ing. There was one fa­tal­ity.

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