- Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday after suffering a major engine failure.
- One passenger, Jennifer Riordan, died, and seven others were treated for their injuries.
- Investigators believe the engine failed when one of its fan blades snapped off midflight.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday after suffering a catastrophic engine failure and cabin decompression.
One passenger, Jennifer Riordan, died as a result of the incident. Her death was the first in an accident aboard a US commercial airliner since 2009.
The aircraft was a nearly 18-year-old Boeing 737-7H4 with the tail number N772SW. It was delivered to Southwest in July 2000.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators believe the left engine failed when one of its 24 titanium alloy fan blades snapped off midflight, causing the front cowling of the engine to disintegrate and firing shrapnel into the cabin of the aircraft.
The engine in question is a CFM56-7B turbofan, the product of a 40-year-old joint venture between GE Aviation and France’s Safran Aircraft Engines called CFM International.
The CFM56 is arguably one of the safest and most popular jet engines in the world, with more than 30,000 units produced since 1980, and it’s used on both civilian and military aircraft. The CFM56-7B, which debuted in 1997, powers more than 6,700 planes worldwide.
In August 2016, Southwest Flight 3472, another Boeing 737 powered by a CFM56 engine, suffered an eerily similar failure, though no one was injured.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told the NTSB on Tuesday that the airline would inspect its entire fleet of more than 710 CFM56-powered Boeing 737s using ultrasonic technology, which scans the engine’s fan blades for microscopic cracks that can be caused by metal fatigue.
Here’s how Flight 1380 unfolded.
At 10:43 a.m. on Tuesday, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 takes off from LaGuardia Airport in New York, headed for Love Field in Dallas before continuing onto New Orleans.
At 11:03 a.m., while flying at 32,500 feet and travelling at 496 mph over eastern Pennsylvania, the left engine of the 737 fails.
The violent event causes the front cowling of the engine to disintegrate, firing shrapnel into the fuselage of the aircraft.
The explosive force of the engine failure causes the jet to bank sharply to the left. Tammie Jo Shults, the captain, and Darren Ellisor, the first officer, soon regain control of the plane.
Shults calmly declares an emergency and turns her aircraft toward Philadelphia.
"We have a part of the aircraft missing": Listen to the dramatic communications between the pilot of Southwest flight 1380 and air traffic control as plane from NYC comes into Philadelphia for emergency landing https://t.co/CgWfJH1DhY pic.twitter.com/QKmWOXNJ0r
— NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) April 17, 2018
Damage from the shrapnel causes the aircraft to lose pressurization. A passenger named Marty Martinez documents the harrowing ordeal on Facebook. At 11:12 a.m., Flight 1380 reaches breathable air below 10,000 feet. The cabin is normally pressurised to mimic conditions at 8,000 feet.
The window in Row 14 on the left side of the plane blows out as a result of the incident. A passenger, later identified as Jennifer Riordan, is partially sucked out of the window; other passengers manage to pull her back in. Seven other people are also injured.
— Matt Tranchin (@mtranchin) April 17, 2018
Riordan, 43, died from trauma to her head, neck, and torso despite her fellow passengers’ efforts to resuscitate her. The National Transportation Safety Board later confirmed Riordan was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the incident.
The Boeing 737 lands in Philadelphia at 11:23 a.m. According to the NTSB, the damage to the aircraft forced the crew to use an alternative flap setting to improve controllability, though it also forced the plane to land at 190 mph, about 35 mph faster than a normal landing.
Passengers exit the aircraft and are transported to the terminal.
At 12:35 p.m., the airport issues a ground stop on all inbound flights. It lasted about an hour.
PHL Update 12:35 PM: FAA has issued ground stop for planes on the ground at other airports waiting to depart for PHL. Check flight status with your airline. Flights are departing PHL. Passengers should expect delays.
— PHLAirport (@PHLAirport) April 17, 2018
At 12:39 p.m., Southwest issues a statement confirming that one of its planes had made an emergency landing.
Update on Flight #1380: pic.twitter.com/JhwVlUBeia
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) April 17, 2018
At 3 p.m., the chairman of the NTSB, Robert Sumwalt, announces that a team of investigators is heading to Philadelphia and confirms the death of a passenger (though Riordan’s identity was not made public until a few hours later).
At 4:30 p.m., NTSB investigators arrive on the scene. The aircraft’s cockpit voice and flight-data recorders are recovered and sent back to Washington, DC, for analysis. Investigators also conduct a preliminary evaluation of the engine.
At 5:21 p.m., Southwest CEO Gary Kelly issues a video message expressing his condolences and support for Riordan’s family.
At 9 p.m., Sumwalt announces at a press conference that fan blade No. 13 of 24 broke, snapping off near the central hub. Investigators found evidence of metal fatigue in the area where the blade failed.
The NTSB also says it located parts of the engine cowling 60 miles north of Philadelphia.
At the press conference, Sumwalt announces that Southwest will use ultrasonic technology to inspect its entire fleet of jets powered by CFM56 engines.
Read More about the Southwest Incident:
- Southwest passenger’s death was the first in a US passenger airline accident in more than 9 years
- Southwest pilot to air traffic control before emergency landing: ‘There’s a hole and someone went out’
- Southwest passenger says there was ‘blood everywhere’ after ‘terrifying’ emergency landing
- Southwest passenger who died after major engine failure has been identified as a Wells Fargo VP and mother of two
- Investigators found a major clue to what may have caused Southwest jet’s engine failure
- The type of engine that blew apart on Southwest plane was a growing concern for regulators
- The pilot who made the Southwest flight emergency landing is a former fighter pilot and one of the first women to fly an F-18
- Southwest passenger’s torso was sucked out of plane after engine explosion busted open aircraft window
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