Last week, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 operated by Boeing B737-700 aircraft suffered engine failure, which led to eventual death of one passenger.
One of the two engines of the aircraft was damaged airborne, while traveling from New York to Dallas with 144 passengers and five crew onboard.
The pilot of the flight declared emergency landing and took the airplane to rapid descent and landed successfully in Philadelphia.
According to CNN, as passengers prayed and pondered their last words to loved ones, the pilot in command of the flight, Captain Tammie Jo Shults and First Officer Darren Ellisor had the duty of landing the big injured aircraft safely.
One of the passengers, Jennifer Riordan who was almost sucked out of the airplane after she was fatally injured was pulled back by passengers into the plane but she died in the hospital after the aircraft landed safely. It was the first fatal accident involving a US-based passenger airline since 2009, NTSB said.
After the accident, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started investigation into the aircraft engine. According to reports, in preliminary briefings, NTSB Chairman, Robert Sumwalt said that inspection of the damaged engine revealed that one of the titanium blades on the big fan had broken off at the root, and that there was evidence of metal fatigue at the site where it broke. He said metal fatigue is a major problem.
Investigations also suggested that the engine, which was built by CPM, might have had that challenge because “the shrapnel damage to the plane’s fuselage and photos of the damage suggest this was a dangerous “uncontained engine failure.” Such incidents occur about three or four times a year worldwide, according to the NTSB.
After the accident, signals were sent all over the world for the inspection of the engine type, which is CFM 56-7B, which is fitted in most of Boeing B737-700 New Generation aircraft series.
On Monday, FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued emergency airworthiness directives requiring operators to inspect fan blades on older CFM56-7B engines within 20 days, airwise.com reported.
The directives applied to CFM International engines of the type that was fitted to the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700.
Initial NTSB inspections of the Southwest engine showed a fan blade had detached and there was evidence of metal fatigue in the fractured blade.
Engines with over 30,000 total cycles must complete the inspections within 20 days, the FAA said. The CFM engines subject to the emergency directives number 681 worldwide and 352 in the US.
In Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) received FAA directive to review the aircraft the same type of aircraft engines fitted on aircraft being operated in Nigeria.
The Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman told THISDAY that the agency was reviewing the aircraft being operated by Nigerian airlines to identify those that may have the engine type.
THISDAY investigations disclosed that Arik Air is the only airline that has Boeing B737-700 and has seven of the aircraft type in its fleet. But inside sources revealed that the engines are relatively newer than the ones being investigated and they neither were near 20 years old nor recorded 30,000 total cycles.
Captain Usman said after the review, if any aircraft engine was affected the NCAA would take appropriate action, dismissing insinuations that some of the aircraft in Air Peace fleet may also have such engine types.
Spokesman of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah said the airline has Boeing 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft, “which had been credited with perfect engine performance”, in its fleet.
The B737-300 and B737-500 aircraft are fitted with a CFM56-3C engine,” he said.
The airline said besides contracting one of the best aircraft maintenance companies in the world, BCT Aviation, to do routine maintenance of its fleet on ground its base in Lagos, it was spending huge foreign exchange to maintain its aircraft in some of the best facilities in the world to ensure that the safety of the flying public was not compromised.
“The FAA directive to airlines which operate aircraft with the same engine with the US carrier to perform ultrasonic inspection on the engines installed on NG B737-700 does not extend to engines installed on the classic aircraft, which we have in our fleet. Besides, our aircraft are maintained in accordance with the approved maintenance programme and manufacturer maintenance document,” Air Peace said.
NTSB said there is need to check the engine type because similar incident happened in 2016, although there was no loss of lives, but the plane made an emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida. The FAA responded 10 months later with a recommendation that airlines use ultrasound to inspect their engine fan blades. Though most airlines have complied with that counsel, the agency thought the matter significantly urgent that it has begun the laborious federal process to mandate that every airline carry out the inspections.
By the time FAA concludes its findings on the engine type, it may likely direct that such engines should be suspended from use and this would cost airlines huge resources replacing the engines. Meanwhile, southwest Airlines flights are disrupted due to the ongoing findings.