Southwest Says No Cracks Found in Latest Engine Safety Checks

(Bloomberg) -- Southwest Airlines Co. in recent days hasn’t found any additional signs of the metal fatigue on jet engine fan blades that led to last week’s fatal accident, though an executive said one cracked blade was discovered during reviews last year.

“With the inspections we have stepped up since last week, we have had no findings at this point, which is obviously what we would expect,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said in a quarterly earnings call with analysts on Thursday.

Southwest has now inspected all but about 10,000 of the 35,500 fan blades in its fleet used on the same engine model that failed, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said. The reviews began last year, with about 17,000 finished before the accident occurred. Examinations were stepped up after the April 17 fatal incident.

The carrier found one cracked blade, which was discarded and replaced, in its earlier inspections of the CFM56-7B engines, Kelly said. He didn’t provide additional details about that cracked blade.

The checks were recommended last year by engine maker CFM International Inc., a partnership between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA, after a Southwest plane experienced an engine failure in 2016 that was similar to the April 17 incident. The plane made an emergency landing, but no one was injured.

The inspections of one of the most common jet engines in the world are being carried out under an emergency directive issued Friday by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in the wake of last week’s fatal accident in which a fan blade cracked and sent metal fragments flying, triggering an explosive decompression on the plane. A New Mexico woman was partially sucked through a window and died.

Southwest expects to have completed checks on all its CFM56-7B engines within 30 days -- not just those covered under the emergency order, which applies to engines with more than 30,000 flights. The carrier has already completed inspections of the 265 engines that fall under the mandate within the specified 20 days.

CFM issued a release Thursday saying that 60 percent of the approximately 680 engines covered under the order issued by FAA and other nations’ aviation regulators had been inspected.

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