Transportation

Southwest cancels some flights for engine inspections after fatal explosion

NTSB investigators examine damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday. MUST CREDIT: NTSB handout
NTSB investigators examine damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday. MUST CREDIT: NTSB handout

Southwest Airlines, which handles more than half of traffic in and out of Sacramento International Airport, is warning that some flights may be canceled in the next month as the company goes through federally mandated urgency inspections after an in-flight engine explosion killed a passenger last week.

As of Monday morning, no Sacramento flights had been canceled. Four incoming and four outgoing Southwest flights on Monday were late or expected to be delayed, but the majority of the carrier's Sacramento flights were reported to be on time.

The air carrier announced it will inspect fan blades on several hundred jets in the coming weeks to assure they are in proper working order.

That announcement came as federal air safety officials warned the same fan blade problem could occur on other similar jet engines.

The company has canceled nearly 40 flights last week because of inspections, but said in a press statement that was only 1 percent of last week's flights. The carrier said it intends to "minimize flight disruptions by performing inspections overnight while aircraft are not flying, and utilizing spare aircraft, when available."

The company says it expects to have its inspections finished by mid-May.

"We anticipate minimal delays or cancellations each day due to the inspections; as a point of reference, this past week's inspections affected fewer than 1 percent of our 4,000 scheduled flights each day," Southwest said in an emailed press statement.

"Customers on affected flights will be notified of any changes to their travel plans through proactive updates. As always, customers are encouraged to check their flight status on Southwest.com."

The inspections follow a dramatic fatal incident last Tuesday when an engine exploded midair. The explosion sent shrapnel into the fuselage, shattering a window, killing one passenger and injuring others. The plane, flying from New York to Dallas, landed in Philadelphia instead.

It was the first domestic carrier fatality in the United States since 2009.

The Federal Aviation Administration immediately issued what it called an "emergency airworthiness directive," requiring inspections of fan blades on Boeing 737-700 jets with 681CFM56-7B engines within 20 days.

"We are issuing this AD because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design," the FAA wrote in its directive.

Check https://sacramento.aero/smf/flight-and-travel/flight-status for real-time flight status at Sacramento airport.

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