The explosion of an engine on Southwest Flight 1380 nearly caused a passenger to be sucked out of the plane, shocking fellow passengers and the rest of the country as well. The incident led to the death of one woman and injured dozens of other passengers. This was the first death aboard a U.S. airline since 2009. Though rare, this is not the first time a passenger was almost forcibly sucked out of an aircraft.
Lawsuits have been filed against Southwest by survivors of Flight 1380. The lawsuits allege that the airline did not maintain the aircraft and engines properly. Many of the passengers claim that they suffered physical and mental distress after the incident. They also report suffering from hearing loss, vertigo, dizziness, anxiety, headaches, and various phobias. In addition to Southwest, the lawsuits name Boeing, the air craft’s manufacturer, and GE Aviation Systems, Safran, and CFM International, the engine’s manufacturers as defendants. The lawsuits claim that these companies were involved in the creation, development, and sale of the engines and the aircraft.
Following the incident, Southwest completed an inspection of 35,000 engine fan blades as required by federal authorities. The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation found that one of the fan blades malfunctioned. The plane was flying at 32,500 feet when the engine failed. Southwest sent a handful of blades to the manufacturer for additional inspection but commented that it was taking precautionary measures and did not note any signs of metal fatigue. The fan blade that malfunctioned on Southwest Flight 1380 was not tested under the stricter standards for inspection that the airline instituted several years ago.
The ramifications of the deadly incident extend beyond Southwest’s internal operations. The FAA ordered all airlines with Boeing 737s in their fleets to conduct inspections within 20 days. The FAA order called for inspections on certain CFM56-7B engines – these engines are standard for most major airline’s Boeing 737 aircrafts. The CFM56-7B engine was also part of an airworthiness directive issued last year by the FAA that would have required inspection of the fan blades at some time later in the year.
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