The US air regulator on Friday imposed emergency inspections in response to the death of a female passenger in an accident on Tuesday, targeting engines similar to the one that partially exploded on a Southwest 737 aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday night ordered a 20-day review of CFM56 engine fan blades for Boeing 737s, which had more than 30,000 rotations, or some 681 engines worldwide, including 352 in the United States.
The regulator announced that it has taken this decision on the basis of the first information from the investigation of Tuesday’s accident and a bulletin issued Friday by the manufacturer of these engines, the French-American company CFM, a joint venture between French Safran and the American General Electric.
In a statement, CFM called for speeding up inspections of its Boeing 737 CFM56-7B engines, starting with a 20-day inspection of those that have completed more than 30,000 “cycles” (engine ignition / take-off and landing / shutdown) . Then, “by the end of August”, those having made more than 20,000 rotations, that is about 2,500 additional engines.
After the first inspection, the manufacturer also recommended re-inspecting the engines every 3,000 cycles, approximately every two years.
The CFM56-7B engines are used by some 60 airlines, said CFM, noting that they have mobilized 500 technicians to “minimize disruption” caused by these additional inspections.
Each inspection takes about four hours, the company said, adding that 150 of the 681 engines to be inspected within 20 days had already been examined.
The FAA order comes three days after a Southwest flight with 149 people on board saw part of its CFM56 engine come off in flight.
The first elements of the investigation showed that shards of metal had broken a window, fatally wounding a 43-year-old mother, partially caught on the outside of the machine, and causing panic in the cabin.
– The FAA criticized –
Thanks to the coolness of the pilot, a former Air Force pilot, the Boeing 737, from New York to Dallas, was able to make an emergency landing at the Philadelphia airport without making any mistakes. other victims.
Southwest announced Tuesday additional inspections of its CFM56 engines, planning to complete them within 30 days.
The head of the NTSB, the US federal agency responsible for transportation safety, quickly recognized similarities with an accident on another Southwest flight in August 2016, also a 737 equipped with a CFM56, which had had to make a mistake. emergency landing in Florida, without making a victim.
CFM had at the time called the companies to conduct additional inspections, and the FAA had also proposed such inspections.
But it had not issued a binding directive, with several companies, including Southwest, arguing that they needed more time to conduct inspections than the FAA was proposing, according to several US newspapers.
Critics have been quick to blame the FAA for taking action.
“The companies dictate to the FAA what they think needs to be done, whereas it is the FAA that should say, + No, you’re going to do that now +”, said Friday Gary Peterson, union vice president transport workers, quoted by NBC. “We do not want a situation where people have to perish before someone looks at it closely.”
“The FAA must be more aggressive in ensuring that, when there is a problem, it is resolved,” said William McGee, who worked in the airline industry and is now a campaigner for consumer rights in the sector. .