The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is requiring General Electric CF-65 engines that power about 2,000 older Boeing 737s and some air buses to be inspected nearly twice as often – every 1,600 flights instead of every 3,000 flights – and for every blade on the engine to be checked for even microscopic damage.
The new airworthiness directive is in response to the death of passenger Jennifer Riordan, who was killed aboard a Southwest plane during an April 17, 2018, flight from New York to Dallas. The accident occurred after one of the engine’s metal fan blades broke off in mid-flight. The shrapnel from the blade flew into the aircraft’s fuselage and into the window next to Riordan, shattering it and pulling her out of the plane.
It was later revealed that the blade has a microscopic crack caused by metal fatigue. According to a Fox 4 investigation shortly after the crash, Southwest did not test for microscopic cracks per the manufacturer’s recommendations because it would take too much time to check all the 737s in its fleet.
Southwest Airlines issued a statement saying it has 750 planes. In June, the airline began inspecting the engines according to FAA’s updated directive.
The Southwest Airlines accident was the first in-flight fatality in the company’s 47-year history. However, a Southwest jet was involved in a fatality in 2005 when it skidded off a snowy runway in Chicago and struck a car, killing a 6-year-old boy.