CHICAGO (CBS)—An engine fan blade that broke off during a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas last April, killing a woman who was partially sucked out of a window broken by the blade, had made thousands of flights, according to new information released today.
The manufacturer of that part told investigators Wednesday at a hearing at the National Transportation Safety Board that metal fatigue likely contributed to the engine blade coming loose.
Passenger Jennifer Riordan, 43, was killed. New testimony released today says passengers saw her with her seatbelt fastened, and her head, torso and arm hanging out of the broken window. One passenger even reached outside the Boeing 737 to help pull her back in.
Boeing 737’s are a common type of airplane used by major airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration is now ordering inspections of fan blades in those aircraft be repeated every 1,600 flight cycles. Just a few weeks ago it was every 3, 000 flights.
As for the deadly flight, the engine-maker told the NTSB the failed engine blade made about 32,000 flights and was last inspected in 2012.
Investigators found signs it was beginning to crack then, but those flaws were smaller than what tests could detect at the time.
Before the blade hit Riordan’s window, the engine failed and created a burst of shrapnel that propelled toward the plane.
Passenger Marty Martinez took a video in the plane as the engine failed.
“It felt like it was free falling (and) of course everybody’s freaking out and everybody’s crying,” Martinez said.