Speiser Krause in the News and Recent Developments

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Update on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 Mid-Air Engine Failure

On April 20, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration issued Emergency Airworthiness Directive (“AD”) 2018-09-51 that incorporated, in part, a Service Bulletin (“SB”) 56-7B 72-1033 issued by CFM International, S.A., the manufacturer of the engine that failed in-flight on April 17, 2018, that killed a passenger.  An AD is a rule published by the FAA that requires certain actions be completed for an aircraft to be considered airworthy. 

Emergency AD 2018-09-51 can be found by clicking here.

CFM SB56-7B 72-1033 can be found by clicking here.

Although the AD does not apply to all engines specified in CFM’s SB, it does mirror the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding engines that have accumulated more than 30,000 cycles of service.  A “cycle” is defined as an engine start, take-off, landing and shutdown.  The AD and SB are identical in that an ultrasonic inspection is required on all engines that have amassed more than 30,000 cycles in service.  Although there are more than 14,000 in-service engines of the same model that failed in the Southwest tragedy, only approximately 680 of those engines have accumulated more than 30,000 cycles and thus, are affected by the AD and SB.  With respect to those 680 engines, the AD and SB require that the ultrasonic inspection of the fan blades take place within 20 days after April 20, 2018.  The manner in which the ultrasonic inspection is to be performed is set out in CFM SB56-7B 72-1033.  The AD does not require the operator to report the findings of the ultrasonic inspection, but CFM has requested that all findings be reported to the manufacturer.  The FAA has determined that this Emergency AD is necessary because it believes that an unsafe condition exists or may develop in those engines affected by the AD. 

The CFM SB specified additional inspections that were not incorporated into the AD.  CFM has advised that identical ultrasonic inspections should be carried out for all engines that have accumulated more than 20,000 cycles, and those inspections should be completed by the end of August 2018.  It is believed that approximately an additional 2,500 in-service engines fall into the category of having accumulated more than 20,000 cycles but less than 30,000.  In addition, the SB stated that once inspected, the engine should undergo recurring ultrasonic inspections every 3,000 cycles.  The FAA did not incorporate the 20,000 cycle inspections or the recurring 3,000 cycle inspections into the Emergency AD.  The FAA stated that it is considering further rulemaking to address the differences between the AD and the CFM SB.

As mentioned in our prior post, this is a tragedy that should not have happened as this identical model engine suffered a similar fan blade failure in 2016.  Had the manufacturer and/or the FAA required these inspections as a result of the 2016 engine failure it is likely that the Southwest tragedy would not have occurred.  Our hearts go out to the family of the passenger killed and all those who have been impacted by this tragedy.  Speiser Krause continues to monitor the accident investigation and we expect additional FAA action in the near future. 


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