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Southwest jet engine explodes in midair; makes safe landing in Philadelphia

BLOWN BLADE: This CFM56-7BE on a Southwest Airlines plane lost a blade while climbing through 32,500 feet. The plane made a safe landing at Philadelphia 20 minutes later.

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BLOWN BLADE: This CFM56-7BE on a Southwest Airlines plane lost a blade while climbing through 32,500 feet. The plane made a safe landing at Philadelphia 20 minutes later.

Thiago Andrade, Staff Writer

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The engine of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 blew up on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, resulting in the fatality of one passenger. The plane landed safely in Philadelphia moments after the explosion.

The Dallas-bound flight took off from New York’s LaGuardia airport at 10:27 A.M. and landed at Philadelphia 58 minutes later at 11:25.

While climbing through 32,500 feet, the number one engine on the left side of the plane suffered an uncontained engine failure and sent shrapnel flying into one of the passenger windows, shattering it and resulting in a rapid loss of pressurization in the cabin.

The major pressure differences from between the inside and outside of the plane caused a passenger, later identified as Jennifer Riordan, to be partially sucked out of the aircraft.

Other passengers helped to pull Riordan back into the plane as the pilots started a rapid descent into Philadelphia. Once Riordan was brought back into the plane, a nurse performed CPR on her, but to no avail.

“It’s really unfortunate that this happened. We need to extend our preventative measures to make sure that something like this never happens again,” said freshman Harbhoosan Chauhan.

The plane made a safe landing at Philadelphia International Airport just 20 minutes after the explosion.

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the cause of the engine failure was a fan blade that came off while the engine was running. This was most likely due to metal fatigue in the blade structure.

Over time, the metal in parts of airplanes can develop small, microscopic cracks that can eventually get so large that the part will fall off entirely. These cracks are extremely difficult to spot in a regular maintenance check, and require a vigorous maintenance cycle to look for.

This incident strikes a very similar incident that happened on another Southwest Airlines plane back in August 2016. While engine debris did not puncture any windows, the cabin did lose pressurization and the engine blew up in a similar fashion.

Southwest Airlines flight 3472 left New Orleans International Airport at 9:10 A.M. About 12 minutes after departure, at 31,000 feet, the number one engine on the left side of the plane suffered an uncontained engine failure.

The engine inlet cowl, the part between the front of the engine and the fan blades inside the engine, broke off and hit parts of the fuselage and horizontal stabilizer.

The crew immediately leveled off and were vectored to a safe landing at Pensacola about 20 minutes later. None of the 104 people on board were hurt, although the oxygen masks were deployed.

“I’m glad that everyone was able to make it off the aircraft safely. It’s upsetting when these things happen, but they’re always learning experiences and can only improve the aviation industry,” said freshman Alex Rodriguez.

The pilot of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 on Tuesday, Tammie Jo Shults, was commended for her work by Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the same pilot that executed a water landing in Midtown Manhattan after a dual engine failure resulted in his plane gliding into the Hudson River.

All 155 people aboard Captain Sullenberger’s plane survived on January 15, 2009. Captain Sullenberger said he was “impressed” and that Captain Shults’ crew “seem to have done a really good job and remained calm, communicated well and had good teamwork.”

Both Captain Shults and Captain Sullenberger were both former fighter pilots and had many years of experience in commercial aviation.

What are your thoughts on this unfortunate incident? Do you think the Southwest maintenance department have some things to look over?

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About the Writer
Thiago Andrade, Staff Writer

Thiago Andrade is a freshman at Monroe Townships High School. He enjoys technology and aviation, and hopes to purse a career as a pilot someday. In his...

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Southwest jet engine explodes in midair; makes safe landing in Philadelphia