FAA to order engine inspections after Southwest incident


The FAA will order airlines to inspect engines similar to the one that exploded on a Southwest flight after investigators found microscopic cracks in the engine fan blade that triggered the accident.

FAA officials said the "airworthiness directive" within the next two weeks, requiring fan blades of engines known as CFM56-7B to be reviewed when they reach a certain number of takeoffs and landings. Blades that fail the inspection must then be replaced.

Southwest had already said that all of the CFM56-7B engines on its Boeing 737 fleet will be reviewed within 30 days, as the joint company that creates the machinery, a pairing of General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines, announced it was sending 40 technicians to support the thousands of upcoming inspections.

The NTSB also blamed metal fatigue for an engine failure on a Southwest plane in Florida in 2016. That led manufacturer CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France's Safran SA, to recommend last June that airlines conduct the inspections of fan blades on many Boeing 737s. It is something the FAA proposed making mandatory nearly a year ago, but the draft directive was never approved.

Southwest said their manual inspection did not catch the metal fatigue that the NTSB believes caused that explosion.

"It was on the interior part of the fan blade, so not more than likely, it was certainly not detectable from looking at it from the outside," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

European regulators recently implemented the same directive.

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