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Inspections show no faults in fan blades



By Ashley Halsey III | Washington Post

Southwest Airlines has completed an inspection of 35,000 engine blades commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Defense, which fell apart in a fatal accident last month, with no additional flaws, but Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Wednesday that "a handful "Blades

Southwest said the blades were sent out" with great caution "to the engine manufacturer General Electric for" coating anomalies "on the blades, and not because they showed signs of metal fatigue

"I do not think we'll have [negative] results with them," Kelly told reporters after Southwest held its annual meeting in Annapolis.

A southwest female passenger, Jennifer Riordan, 43, a bank director and mother-of-two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was killed on April 1

7 when a motor fan near his hub broke in a splash of metal shrapnel that destroyed her window like the Boeing 737 climbed to cruising altitude.

Riordan's plane, Flight 1380, which brought her home from a trip to New York, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Kelly said the fan blade in the deadly break had not been tested under the stricter standards that Southwest introduced after a virtually identical engine blower break-up nearly two years ago.

In August 2016, on a southwest flight from New Orleans to Atlanta, one of 24 twin-bladed 737 rotor blades broke off the f use directly above the wing and depressurized the cabin. No one was reported as injured.

"The inspections have since been different than the inspections that took place prior to the 2016 event," Kelly said. "We do very frequent inspections [now] although the fatigue of these blades is indeed rare, and although we have no insight from these recent inspections, we will continue to do them."

Since the 2016 incident, Southwest has carried out an ultrasound scan of its fan blades. If this test indicates a problem, the fan blade will be sent to GE for a so-called eddy current test, a process that uses electromagnetic induction to detect subterranean defects in metal.

Kelly said that the fan blade in question had logged about 40,000 flights, about 10,000 of them since it was last inspected by GE.

"There was no inspection with the ultrasonic or eddy current test," Kelly said. "It would have been inspected in 2018."

He said the cracks in the 2016 incident and the April deaths were very similar.

"The stress was at the same, logical point toward the root of the fan blade," Kelly said.

He said that Southwest had to cancel about 500 flights to conduct the inspections.

"The engine inspections are complete and the results [negative] are zero," Kelly said.

Kelly said after the April incident, he had expected second-quarter revenue to fall between 1 and 2 percent.

"Our flights are very busy," he said. "I think we are very pleased with the kind of support we have received from our customers."

The company regularly lures its customers to fly and sends its frequent flyers each year several brand show events by e-mail. It started another discount flight this month to recover from the incident.

"With this sale, we are returning to the market for the first time since flight 1380 and entering our direct sales model to encourage bookings on our website," said Southwest spokeswoman Thais Hanson at the annual meeting.

After the April disaster, the FAA ordered all airlines flying the Boeing 737 to inspect the engines within 20 days.

The FAA mandate required the inspection of fan blades on certain CFM56-7B engines used on virtually all airlines on the Boeing 737 aircraft.


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