A preliminary investigation into the Southwest Airlines' blown engine, which caused a frightening chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half out of a broken window, showed signs of "metal fatigue," according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Passengers tried to prevent the woman from being sucked out of the shattered window, and a trained nurse and paramedic on the flight hurried to help her. She died later, and seven others were injured.
The twin-engined Boeing 737 pilots, who had flown from New York to Dallas with 149 people, took a quick descent Tuesday and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Oxygen masks fell from the ceiling and the passengers said their prayers and lunged at the impact.
"I remember holding my husband's hand, and we prayed and prayed and prayed," said passenger Amanda Bourman from New York.
The dead woman was identified as Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo bank manager and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The seven other victims suffered minor injuries. Retired nurse Peggy Phillips told WFAA-TV that she had performed CPR on Riordan for about 20 minutes until the plane landed in Philadelphia.
She said that shortly after takeoff "we heard a loud noise and the plane started shaking like nothing I had ever experienced before, it sounded like the plane was falling apart and I found out quite quickly, that something happened to the engine. "
She said they were losing height and the masks came down and" basically I think we all thought it might be that. "
Then she heard a lot of excitement a few rows behind.
"There was a lot of chaos back there ̵
After a flight attendant asked if anyone knew CPR, Phillips and an EMT put down the woman and performed CPR until the plane hit the ground.
"If you're about to fly through the window of an airplane at about 600 miles per hour and hit the wing with either the torso or the body, then I can probably tell you a significant trauma." said Phillips.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Philadelphia and NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said late Tuesday that one of the fan blade's fan was being disconnected and missing. The blade was severed at the point where it would enter the hub, and there was evidence of metal fatigue, Sumwalt said.
The engine is further investigated to understand what caused the failure. The investigation is expected to take 12 to 15 months.
Photos of the aircraft on the tarmac showed a missing window and a portion of the left engine, including part of its cover. Part of the engine cover was later found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 112 kilometers west of Philadelphia, Sumwalt said.
As a precaution, Southwest Tuesday evening said that there were similar engines in its fleet over the next 30 days
Passengers praised one of the pilots, Tammie Jo Shults, for her cool head to handle the emergency. The former naval pilot was at the wheel when the plane landed on her husband Dean Shults. She walked down the corridor and talked to the passengers to make sure they were okay after the plane had landed.
"She has nerves of steel, this lady I applaud her," said Alfred Tumlinson of Corpus Christi, Texas. "I'll send her a Christmas card, I'll tell you that, with a gift certificate to put me on the floor, she was great."
In a record of talks between cockpit and air traffic controllers, an unidentified female crew member reported that there was a hole in the plane and "someone went off."
Tumlinson said that a man in a cowboy hat was leading a couple of rows to grab the woman and pull her back.
"She was off the plane, he could not do it alone, so another gentleman came over and helped bring her back to the plane, and they have her," he said.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said there were no problems with the plane or its engine when it was inspected on Sunday.
The jet's CFM56-7B engines were manufactured by CFM International, which is jointly owned by General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines of France. CFM said in a statement that the CFM56-7B had "an outstanding safety and reliability record" since its debut in 1997.
Last year, the engine manufacturer and the Federal Aviation Administration commissioned airlines to carry out ultrasonic inspections of the fan blades of engines such as those in the Southwest Jet. The FAA said the move was triggered by a report from a fan blade that fails and hurls debris. A southwestern spokeswoman said that the engine that failed Tuesday was not covered by this policy, but the airline announced that it would accelerate the ultrasound inspection of its CFM56 engine blades anyway.
"There is a ring around the engine to hold the engine parts when that happens," said John Goglia, a former NTSB member. "Not in this case, this will be a big focus for the NTSB – why did not (the ring) do its job?"
In 2016, a Southwest Boeing 737-700 blew up a motor as it flew from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, and shrapnel tore a 5 by 16-inch hole directly above the wing. The plane landed safely. The NTSB said a fan blade had broken off, apparently because of metal fatigue.
Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press authors Kristen de Groot and Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia; Susan Montoya in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Matthew Barakat of Washington, along with AP researchers Monika Mathur and Jennifer Farrar, contributed to the story.