Blown engine in Southwest plane showed signs of ‘metal fatigue’

Ns News Online DeskNs News Online Desk: US-The engine that exploded on a Southwest Airlines jet 32,000 feet in the air showed evidence of “metal fatigue” according to a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Passengers on the twin-engine Boeing 737 bound to Dallas from LaGuardia Tuesday, scrambled to save a woman from getting sucked out of a window that had been smashed open by debris from the shattered engine. She later died and seven others were injured.

The hero pilot, a US Navy veteran named Tammie Jo Shults, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia and is credited with preventing further fatalities. In a late night news conference Tuesday, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said one of the engine’s 24 titanium fan blades was missing, having apparently broken off, and there was metal fatigue at the point where it would have normally been attached. Metal fatigue is a condition where continuous physical stresses have degraded the strength of metal components, resulting in an accumulation of small cracks, according to Gizmodo.

The engine will be examined further to understand what caused the failure in an investigation that is expected to take 12 to 15 months. “There’s a ring around the engine that is meant to contain the engine pieces when this happens,” John Goglia, a former NTSB member told the Associated Press. “In this case, it didn’t. That’s going to be a big focal point for the NTSB — why didn’t [the ring] do its job?”

Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk of the left engine missing, including part of its cover. A piece of the engine covering was later found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia, Sumwalt said.

Southwest Airlines announced it would speed up inspections of all related engines out of extra caution. It expects to complete the inspections in 30 days. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said there were no problems with the plane or its engine when it was inspected Sunday.

The jet involved in the incident was delivered new to Southwest in July 2000, according to Business Insider. The almost 18-year-old jet is powered by a pair of CFM56-7B turbofan engines — one of the most popular jet engines in the world that can be found on over 6,700 aircrafts worldwide. Tuesday’s tragedy marks the end of a nine-year US airline industry safety streak.

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