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FAA orders jet engine inspections after fatal Southwest incident

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered new inspection requirements for engines similar to the one that failed earlier in the week on a Southwest Airlines flight, resulting in a passenger’s death.

The emergency airworthiness directive will require airlines to perform an ultrasonic inspection of certain CFM56-7B engines within 20 days of receipt of the order, it said. Federal safety investigators have said the naked eye cannot detect the cracks and signs of metal fatigue that doomed the engine on Southwest Flight 1380.

“We are issuing this AD because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design,” the directive said.

The Southwest Boeing 737 took off Tuesday morning from New York, headed for Dallas. About 20 minutes into the flight, at about 32,500 feet, a fan blade broke off the engine and shrapnel shattered a window.

Jennifer Riordan, 43 and a mother of two, was sucked out of the broken window and pulled back inside by fellow passengers. She died from blunt force trauma at a hospital after the plane’s emergency landing in Philadelphia.

The new inspection is to be done while the engine is on the aircraft’s wing. Inspections take between two and four hours per engine, according to the FAA and manufacturer.

Friday’s announcement came shortly after the engine manufacturer, CFM International, issued a service bulletin recommending the CFM56-7B engine be inspected more frequently. After reaching a certain age, the engines should be inspected approximately every two years, the manufacturer said.

The manufacturer told CNN it has been working with the FAA on the inspection procedures.