Southwest deadly engine failures bring FAA under scrutiny
Southwest Airlines is still feeling the consequences of the deadly engine failure on April 17, 2018. In addition to lawsuits by eight passengers of the flight and one passenger’s husband, United States authority body has announced launching an investigation into the supervision of the carrier. The investigation references a similar incident with engine fan blade failure mid-flight Southwest had back in 2016.
On April 17, 2018, the aircraft en route from New York LaGuardia (LGA) to Dallas Love Field (DAL) suffered a failure of its CFM56 engine. Debris damaged the side of the fuselage and cracked a window, fatally injuring one passenger and wounding seven others.
The FAA under scrutiny
The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a memorandum on June 20, 2018, announcing it would proceed to audit Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Safety Oversight of Southwest Airlines, due to concerns following the events of flight 1380.
The memo also mentions a similar occurrence of engine failure on Southwest flight 3472 from New Orleans International Airport (MSY) to Orlando International Airport (MCO) on August 27, 2016. At the time, a fan blade from the left engine (also a CFM56) separated and punctured the left wing and the cabin, resulting in a loss of pressure.
Both incidents happened in comparable conditions, as the aircraft were both in climb phase at around the same altitude. Due to those similarities, the DOT is questioning “what actions the carrier took to manage the risk to prevent a future failure” after August 2016.
The audit also follows a hotline complaint regarding irregularities in Southwest Airlines operations, pointing at “alleged pilot training deficiencies”. The DOT is to examine if FAA’s oversight evaluated the capacity of Southwest to identify and manage risks.
Following the memo, the FAA released a statement on June 21, 2018, saying they were welcoming the investigation of the “FAA’s oversight of Southwest Airlines”.
Passengers asking for answers
Eight passengers from Flight 1380 and one passenger’s husband filed a lawsuit against Southwest at New York Supreme Court on June 19, 2018. They report hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder following the “near-death trauma”. The lawsuit also includes as co-defendant Boeing and CFM International, the joint venture of GE Aviation and Safran manufacturing the CFM56 engine. A similar lawsuit against the airline was filed by another passenger in April 2018.
Southwest originally gave indemnities of $5000 to all 144 passengers, as well as $1000 credit of Southwest airfare. Attorney Jonathan Johnson said to CNN that similar complaints should be filed in the future by other passengers from the flight.
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