European regulators tighten order for jet fan blade tests

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered airlines to inspect fan blades on engines like the one that failed earlier this week, killing a passenger on a Southwest Airlines Flight.

"CFM recommends ultrasonic inspections within the next 20 days to fan blades of CFM56-7B engines with more than 30,000 cycles since new", the service bullet issued Friday said. Each aircraft has two engines.

The agencies have given just 20 days for nearly 700 CFM56-7B engines, made by CFM International, to be examined. The FAA said its directive would affect more than 350 engines in the US and hundreds more worldwide.

The move came days after one of those engines on a Southwest Airlines jet exploded in midair, leading to the death of a female passenger and injuries of seven others. Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was sucked partway out of the jet when a window shattered. He and other passengers are shown terrified as they hold their oxygen masks to their faces.

The EAD comes after a fan blade on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 snapped off mid-flight, spraying shrapnel that punctured the aircraft's fuselage causing depressurization.

For over a year, the FAA has been considering an Airworthiness Directive to require ultrasonic imaging of all CFM engines of that kind within a 12-month time period.

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"The public should be anxious (because) a manufacturer sent out a warning, and Southwest and others didn't do it", said Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general of the Transportation Department, FAA's parent agency.

The Southwest plane was a Boeing 737 equipped with an engine made by CFM International. An investigation into that incident is still underway, but the NTSB said it had also found evidence of metal fatigue. The emergency order is effective immediately and inspections must be completed within 20 days.

Southwest wrote in a statement that although it opposed the airworthiness directive proposed by CFM, it had nonetheless completed the inspections recommended by the manufacturer a year ago.

The manufacturer told CNN it has been working with the FAA on the inspection procedures. The airline also complained that the recommendation did not account for the fans that were already inspected and the findings rate, advocating a more "data-informed AD compliance time".

United States and European aviation authorities have ordered emergency inspections of jet engines similar to the one involved in a fatal accident earlier this week. "So it's a fairly big deal for this kind of failure to happen".

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