Emergency Engine Inspections Lead to Cancellations, Delays for Southwest Airlines Travelers

(The Washington Post) —
Southwest engine
Parts of the cowling from the engine that blew on a Southwest Airlines flight last Tuesday. (NTSB/Handout via Reuters)

Scores of Southwest Airlines travelers are facing delays or cancellations Sunday due to emergency inspections following the mid-air explosion of an engine on one of the airline’s 737s last week.

Southwest said about 40 of its 4,000 scheduled flights were canceled because of the emergency fan-blade inspections. Meanwhile, the flight-tracking website FlightAware showed that about 414 Southwest flights, or about 10 percent, had been delayed Sunday.

Southwest did not immediately say what proportion of the delays was tied to the engine inspections, or whether another problem was contributing to the widespread disruptions. In a statement, it only acknowledged the 40 cancellations.

“When we announced the accelerated engine fan blade inspection program on Tuesday night, we said there would be some impact to the operation,” Southwest’s communications team in a statement. “We have minimized flight disruptions this past week through actions such as proactive aircraft routings to cover open trips and utilizing spare aircraft, when available.”

Following the April 17 incident which killed 43-year-old passenger Jennifer Riordan when she was partially sucked out of a window that broke, Southwest announced accelerated, ultrasonic checks of fan blades on the CFM56 engines, which power the Boeing 737s that make up the entirety of Southwest’s fleet.

“The accelerated inspections are being performed out of an abundance of caution and are expected to be completed over the next 30 days,” Southwest said in a statement Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration later ordered inspections on the type of engine that exploded.

Southwest said, however, the cancellations stemmed from its voluntary inspections — not the FAA directive issued Friday.

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