Trump Lauds Southwest Airlines Crew for Engine Failure Response

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump praised crew members and passengers of a Southwest Airlines flight for their handling of an emergency landing two weeks ago after an engine exploded.

Trump met in the Oval Office with five crew members and five passengers from Flight 1380, saying that they were “some incredible people.”

The visit, arranged after the White House contacted the airline, was the crew’s first public appearance since the April 17 incident, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said. Pilot Tammie Jo Shults, who joined Southwest in 1994, was in the first cohort of women Navy pilots to transition to tactical aircraft and served as an instructor pilot flying the EA-6B Prowler and F/A-18 Hornet.

Trump said Shults and the rest of the crew “displayed exemplary leadership” during the episode. “You were calm and strong and cool.”

Shults and her crew were able to land the plane safely in Philadelphia, but shrapnel broke a window while it was still in flight, partially sucking out Jennifer Riordan, 43, who was fatally injured. She was the only one of the 149 people aboard the plane who experienced severe injuries.

Trump said “our hearts break for the family of the passenger who tragically lost her life.”

Riordan’s death was the first in an accident aboard a U.S.-operated passenger airline in nearly 100 million flights over a nine-year span. It was also the second fatality due to an accident in Southwest’s 47-year history. A Southwest plane slid off a runway in 2005, crashed through a fence and onto a roadway, killing a child in a car.

Trump took credit for U.S. airlines’ safety record in a February tweet. "Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation," he wrote. "Good news -- it was just reported that there were zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record."

That didn’t include at least 13 deaths last year in seven crashes involving commercial charter flights in the U.S., and ignored the fact that the FAA was being run by an Obama-era holdover.

The Federal Aviation Administration, attempting to ensure there are no more cracked fan blades in the fleet, on Tuesday announced expanded inspections of the CFM56-7B engine that failed. The action, which covers more than 3,700 engines in the U.S., dramatically expands emergency inspections ordered April 20.

Southwest had already announced plans to inspect the blades on all its engines by mid-May. American Airlines expects to complete the inspections as part of routine maintenance with no disruption of its schedule, said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman.

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