Metal fatigue blamed for engine blow out

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The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday was inspecting the wrecked engine of a Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) jet that blew up in mid air, killing a passenger in the first deadly US commercial airline accident in nine years. That incident prompted the FAA to propose a year ago that similar fan blades undergo ultrasonic inspections and be replaced if they failed.

Earlier on Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt told a news conference that the incident began when one of the engine's 24 fan blades snapped off from its hub.

Last August, FAA released a proposed AD that would require engines with more than 15,000 cycles-in-service since their last engine shop visit to undergo ultrasonic inspection of certain fan blades within six months of the rule's effective date.

The issue, according to investigators was the fan blade in the engine.

The engine is identified in the FAA's registry database as a "CFM56 SERIES" engine, but it is identified more precisely in the media as a CFM56-7B.

"We may be seeing a new phenomenon involving engines as they get old", said Bill Waldock, an expert on aircraft accident investigations with the Embry Aeronautical University.

Manufacturers regularly inspect engines for hidden cracks using X-ray machines or ultrasound devices - the same kind of technology doctors use to check the health of expectant mothers.

Shults and Ellisor said they were focused on working with investigators and would not be speaking to the media.

Passengers are calling the pilot of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which staged an emergency landing Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport, a hero.

"We did CPR on this lady. a window had broken and the suction, the negative pressure, had pulled her outside the plane partially", Phillips told ABC affiliate WFAA on Tuesday.

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"They said there's a hole and someone went out". It was the first death in a USA commercial aviation accident since 2009.

Seven people on the aircraft suffered minor injuries as air rushed out of the cabin - leaving people needing oxygen masks.

"Our experts have been documenting the window frame area to understand how the window came out, and I want to know, we have found no window pane materials, the acryllic the window panes are made of, we found really no acryllic inside the airplane".

The leading edge of the left wing was damaged by shrapnel from the engine explosion.

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults says: 'OK, could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said the death was the first on a USA passenger airline in over nine years. "We're stunned. My heart breaks for Michael", Marianne Riordan said.

Whatever happened inside that complicated system of fuel and fire and whirling components, it resulted in the decompression of the cabin at about 32,000 feet and, later, the death of a passenger after she almost flew out a window.

With oxygen masks over their mouths, passengers screamed and braced for impact. But during the descent, Martinez said he and some of the plane's other passengers thought they wouldn't land safely.

Jennifer Riordan died aboard a Southwest Airlines flight.

Asked if the plane was on fire, Ms Shults said: "Not on fire but part of it is missing".