Photo of Southwest passengers in oxygen masks prompts concern

Cheryl Sanders
April 19, 2018

Others said he was selfish to focus on messaging instead of on the critically injured passenger a few rows away.

The blast sent debris flying like shrapnel into the plane, breaking a window. A woman sitting next to the window was partially blown out of it. The plane diverted to Philadelphia after the engine exploded.

Sumwalt said the fan blade, after suffering metal fatigue where it attached to the engine hub, has a second fracture about halfway along its length. Investigators found that the engine failed on Tuesday after one of its 24 fan blades snapped off. It is something the FAA proposed making mandatory almost a year ago, but the draft directive was never approved.

Fan blades that have undergone a certain number of flights will have to be given ultrasonic tests, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said. "So careful (visual) maintenance inspection from outside the fan blade would not have detected it, more than likely". And this particular photo shows an even more risky problem: Several passengers on the plane weren't using their oxygen masks properly. Last year, the FAA estimated that an order would cover 220 engines on US airlines. "The engine family has accumulated more than 350 million flight hours as one of the most reliable and popular jet engines in airline history". Southwest flies a fleet made up entirely of Boeing 737s, and all of them are equipped with the General Electric built CFM56 engine.

"WestJet is in compliance with this directive and based on the incident yesterday, has an immediate plan to accelerate these inspections", spokesperson Lauren Stewart in a statement to on Wednesday.

"When the parts are off the aircraft and in the fix station a more thorough level of investigation can be performed that would be impractical whilst the engine is on the aircraft wing". It will not be clear until the FAA issues its rule how many will need inspections.

The incident Tuesday represents the first passenger death due to an in-flight accident since 2009, when a Continental Express airliner crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing 49 passengers and one person on the ground.

Metal fatigue was also blamed in a 2016 engine failure in Florida.

In a statement on its website, the company said: "The CFM56-7B engine powering this aircraft has compiled an outstanding safety and reliability record since entering revenues service in 1997 while powering more than 6,700 aircraft worldwide". Fellow passengers pulled her back in and unsuccessfully attempted CPR. It broke off during that Southwest flight from NY to Dallas sending shrapnel forward and causing an explosion. "On behalf of the Southwest family, I want to extend my deepest sympathies for the family and the loved ones of our deceased customer", Kelly said.

It is unknown whether the FAA's original directive would have forced Southwest to quickly inspect the engine that blew up. "They said there's a hole and, um, someone went out", she adds.

The metal fatigue would not have been observable by looking at the engine from the outside, Sumwalt said.

"The first thing they probably are going to do is pull every single one of those other blades off and X-ray them to see if they've got a similar type of failure waiting to happen", he said.

Russo and Staci Thompson, who has known Shults for about 20 years and was nanny to her two children when they were small, said she "loved" her military career but has alluded to frustrations and challenges that came with it.

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