U.S. aviation regulators are planning to require emergency inspections of one of the most popular jet engines in the world as a result of the fatal accident earlier this week on a Southwest Airlines Co. plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration is poised to issue an emergency airworthiness directive as soon as Friday calling for stepped up inspections of the CFM56-7B, manufactured by CFM International Inc., a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Safran SA, said a person familiar with the agency’s plans who wasn’t authorized to speak about the move publicly.
The new order was triggered because the fan blades on the engine that failed on Tuesday wouldn’t have been covered for immediate inspections under the earlier standards. CFM had recommended airlines first inspect engines with 15,000 flights or more, but the engine involved in Tuesday’s failure had only 10,000.
CFM issued a new service bulletin to operators of the engines, it said in a press release Friday.
The inspections on the oldest engines, those with fan blades that have made more than 30,000 flights, should have inspections within 20 days, according to the company’s bulletin. The FAA is expected to follow CFM’s lead and set the same conditions.
A fan blade broke off in flight Tuesday on the CFM56-7B engine, triggering a chain of events that shattered a window on the Boeing Co. 737-700. The incident raised a number of questions because jet engines are certified to be able to withstand a broken fan blade without causing major damage.
The manufacturer had issued two service bulletins last year calling for additional inspections of fan blades on the CFM56-7B engines following a similar incident in 2016 on another Southwest plane. In that earlier case, a fan blade fractured and broke loose, bouncing in front of the engine’s protective cover and then striking the plane, causing it to lose pressure. No one was injured after the plane made an emergency landing.
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