NTSB recommends a redesign of Boeing 737s engine covers following fatal 2018 Southwest Airlines flight

November 21st, 2019
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It was on April 17, 2018, when Southwest Airlines’ flight 1380 misfortune occurred. It is due to the engine explosion which marks the first accident-related death on a U.S airline after almost a decade since the crash of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February of 2009. It was also the first fatal accident involving Southwest Airlines. Having said so, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a recommendation to Boeing; to redesign the engine covers on all of the planes in the future.

The said Southwest Airlines incident resulted in the death of the 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan. She was blown partly out of the aircraft when a piece of the engine flew into and punctured a three-pane window next to her. Exactly eight other passengers received minor injuries on the flight. The captain of the flight is the former United States navy pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, and the first officer is a former United States Air Force pilot, Darren Ellisor. There was a total of 144 passengers on the flight and five crew members on board.

Southwest Airlines then gave each passenger $5,000 and a $1,000 voucher for future travel with their airline. Following the said incident, the bookings and sales of the airline company fell, resulting in the projected decline in terms of revenue for the second quarter of 2018. Also, a passenger named Lila Chavez, which is onboard the flight, filed a lawsuit against the airline company claiming that it gave here the posttraumatic stress disorder.

To date, there was a meeting held this Tuesday in Washington which was attended by the safety board with the agenda of voting the probable cause of the said incident in line with the investigative hearing in November 2018.

In accordance with the preliminary findings, in one of the engines, a fan blade was broken which prompts the chain reaction of events that led to the engine blowing apart while the aircraft is more than 30,000 feet over Pennsylvania as the crew conducted an emergency descent and diverted to Philadelphia International Airport. It departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport en route to Dallas Love Field. The aircraft, Boeing 737-7H4, was substantially damaged.

There’s a total of 24 fan blades on the Southwest jet and all had been used on more than 32,000 flights and even overhauled twice. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), concluded that the fan blade had already cracked at the time of the last overhaul. Unfortunately, the damage was not spotted during the process then in use. A series of inspections commenced and found out that, additional 15 cracked fan blades in the engine made by CFM International were discovered on different airline companies. The said fatal event also led to more frequent and more intensive inspections of fan blades on various engines made by the CFM International which is a joint venture between France’s Safran S.A. and General Electric Co.

With those findings, the NTSB recommended engine cover resigns for the new aircraft and intensify this issue to Boeing so they retrofit planes with the new engine covers. As per the statement released by Boeing, the company commended the NTSB for its in-depth investigation of Southwest Airlines’ incident last year. On the brighter side, this aircraft manufacturing company also has initial plans on undertaking the recommended actions. It released a statement that it has plans to revamp parts for thousands of 737s that will withstand engine failures in flight.

Boeing is known worldwide as the largest aerospace company and the leading manufacturer when it comes to commercial jetliners, space and security systems, defense, and service provider of aftermarket support. It is America’s biggest manufacturing exporter and even supports various customers from more than 150 countries. Military and commercial aircraft, satellites, electronic and defense constructions, advanced information and communication schemes, and performance-based logistics and even training are just some of its products and services offerings. It has an accurately long tradition when it comes to aerospace leadership and innovation. One of its goals to continue striving for the better in expanding its product line and services to meet the emerging customer desires.

Since then, it is truly committed to working closely and actively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), industry stakeholders, and engine manufacturers, to implement necessary enhancements that address the NTSB’s safety recommendations for all. To give you a brief idea, the FAA is a governmental body in the United States that has the power to regulate every aspect of civil aviation on the said nation.  

Although the NTSB, FAA, and Boeing do not provide a timetable, it was intensified that when the redesign is completely done, the safety board informs that all 737 NGs should then be retrofitted and new models should also come equipped with the said safety feature.

Moving forward, Boeing indeed has plans to follow the given recommendations for the succeeding fan blade inspections and even to introduce further enhancements to the engine covers to increase the overall capability of the structure. The governing bodies and the other stakeholders involved are also committed to doing their part in ensuring that unfortunate events like this will never happen again. That’s the common goal, safety is always the priority. Also, Southwest Airlines, which operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet, said in a statement that the safety of its fleet, crews, and customers is of paramount importance.