FAA orders more inspections of jet engines following deadly Southwest Airlines accident

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered inspections of more jet engines like the one that blew apart at 32,000 feet in a deadly accident aboard a Southwest Airlines plane.

The agency says its order affects 352 engines in the U.S. and another 681 worldwide on “new generation” Boeing 737 jets. Each aircraft has two engines.

The requirement from the agency comes after the engine maker, CFM International, issued a service bulletin recommending that more engines be inspected. At issue are the engine fan blades on Boeing 737-600, 700, 800 and 900 jets.

The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the blades snapped on the Southwest flight Tuesday, hurling debris that broke a window and led to the death of a passenger who was sucked partway out of the plane. The jet, which was headed from New York to Dallas, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

The CFM 56-7B engines are on about 1,800 “new generation” 737s in service in the U.S. and about 6,400 worldwide.

Contact 13 has learned the valley has a close connection with another deadly airline accident involving metal fatigue.

It was July 19, 1989, when a United Airlines DC-10 cartwheeled down a runway in Sioux City, Iowa killing 112 people.

United flight 232 was headed from Denver to Chicago when it suffered hydraulic failure and crash landed in Iowa.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board's official report, several factors were blamed for the crash including a catastrophic fan blade fracture in the number 2 tail-mounted engine. The blade was made of titanium from the TIMET plant in Henderson, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's report.

The FAA's report noted TIMET used Lake Mead water which contains a significant sulfur content. The result is higher sulfur levels than in titanium made by other producers.

The FAA's report went on to describe TIMET's cleaning procedure that introduced phosphorous into its titanium in amounts significantly greater than the amounts of other producers. Federal investigators blamed an undetected defect in the titanium alloy which led to a metal fatigue fracture.

It remains unclear what company manufactured the titanium used for the CFM blade that broke apart.

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