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Southwest Rush's Engine Checks in the first-of-its-kind crisis



Southwest Airlines Co. reinforces engine inspections as the discount carrier known for its peculiar joviality and strong safety record deals with the consequences of its first accident killing a passenger.

Ultrasonic examinations of the fan blades On its CFM56 engines will be completed within 30 days, Southwest said. The airline, which operates the world's largest fleet of Boeing 737 jetliners, relies on the turbofan to power its more than 700 aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board found evidence of metal fatigue, an area of ​​weakness caused by repeated bending where a fan blade was missing on the engine, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a late Tuesday statement. A woman died after a shrapnel from the explosion, which raced through a window about 20 minutes after the flight from New York to Dallas.

"This is a very sad day, and on behalf of the entire Southwest family, I deeply wish to deeply apprehend the family and relatives of the deceased customer," said Gary Kelly, Southwest's Chief Executive Officer, to reporters in an auditorium called Freedom Hall spoke at the Southwest headquarters in Dallas. "We will do everything in our power to support them in this difficult time and in the difficult days."

Photographer: Sergio Flores / Bloomberg

Death was the first death in flight due to an accident in the 47-year history of the Southwest. That does not include an episode of 2005, when one of the jets slid off a snow-covered runway onto a Chicago street and killed a six-year-old boy in a car.

Accident Probe

Federal investigator along with teams of technical experts from Boeing and engine manufacturer CFM International, a company owned by General Electric Co. and France Safran SA, gather clues about what caused the accident ,

The engine of a Southwest Airlines aircraft.

Photographer: Amanda Bourman on AP Photo

The CFM turbofan, one of the most widely used jet engines, has collected more than 350 million flight hours on 6,700 aircraft since entering the market in 1997.

There was "just a handful" of engine failure, Kelly said. It would be "premature to even link it to other engine failures that have occurred."

Southwest has more than 500 Boeing 737-700 jets, the aircraft variant that was involved in the incident. While Southwest's average flights are getting longer as the company has become # 4 in the US airline, the airline is still known for operating more short-hauls than full-service airlines with flights crossing oceans. The relatively high number of take-offs and landings additionally puts a strain on the aircraft and engines.

"Every time you run such a motor at maximum power and hold it at startup for a few minutes, you put all on maximum load on the rotating parts," said John Nance, a former airline and military pilot. "You can not deny that the more you turn up an engine when you start, the more you emphasize those blades."

The stress caused by the aluminum frames on Southwest's 737 jets was highlighted after a hole in mid-2011 tore the fuselage skin of an airplane in mid-flight. Metal fatigue was later linked to the engineering used by Boeing workers to assemble the family of aircraft that Southwest retired last year.

Earlier incident

Investigators also want to know if there is a connection between the engine outbreak on Tuesday and an uncontrolled engine failure that shrapnel spread on a southwest plane across the Gulf of Mexico in 2016, Sumwalt said.