WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Federal Aviation Administration will soon begin ordering U.S. airlines to inspect engine fan blades that have reached a certain number of takeoffs and landings.
The development follows Tuesday’s deadly engine explosion involving a Southwest Airlines jet. The incident marked the first passenger fatality on a U.S. carrier since 2009.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators believe one of the fan blades in the left engine of Southwest Flight 1380 broke off at the connection point, ripping through the engine and sending metal debris into the wing and through a cabin window. Investigators found a crack in the engine which may have led to blade breaking off.
“The fan blade, it separated in two places,” said Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the NTSB.
Forty-three-year-old Jennifer Riordan, a married mother of two from New Mexico, was wearing her seatbelt when she was nearly sucked out of that window. A medical examiner said she died from blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso.
“Engine failures like this, should not occur,” said Sumwalt.
In the wake of the tragedy, many of the passengers on the harrowing flight have called Captain Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first women to become a Navy fighter pilot, a hero.
“She was so cool and calm and put together in the face of a crisis,” said Rachel Russo, a friend of Shults.
After the plane’s engine blew out, it tilted about 40 degrees to the left. Twenty-two minutes later, Shults managed to land the Boeing 737 safely.
In a joint statement released late Wednesday, Shults and her co-pilot expressed “appreciation for the outpouring of support,” adding “we all feel we were simply doing our jobs.”
The Southwest plane sped into Philadelphia International Airport at 190-miles-per hour. Southwest says the 18-year-old Boeing 737 was inspected just two days before the accident. The NTSB plans to review its maintenance history.