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Southwest Airlines Engine Failure Results In First Fatality On US Airline In 9 Years (heavy.com) 332

schwit1 shares a report from Heavy: Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off, damaging a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane. The flight was en route to Dallas Love airport from New York City, and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Shults, 56, kept her cool during an incredibly intense situation, audio from her conversation with air traffic controllers reveals, while many passengers posted on social media that they were scared these were their last moments. She, with the help of the co-pilot and the rest of the crew, landed the plane safely. The NTSB reported that there was one fatality out of 143 passengers on board. Some passengers said that someone had a heart attack during the flight, but it's not yet known if this was the fatality reported by the NTSB. The woman who died has been identified by KOAT-TV as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Southwest Airlines Engine Failure Results In First Fatality On US Airline In 9 Years

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  • Really Bad luck (Score:5, Informative)

    by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @03:15AM (#56456663)
    These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body. Explosion are also unlikely. Having all that plus some debris break a window is really bad luck for that passenger.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @03:34AM (#56456705)

      "When it is infinitely improbable that something will ever happen, it will happen almost immediately." - Douglas Adams.

    • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @03:52AM (#56456751)

      That's the design, but in this case it hasn't been all that successful. The FAA already issued an airworthiness directive (essentially the aircraft version of a mandatory recall) for these engines because of this type of failure. So either the airline didn't comply with the requirement, it wasn't sufficient to address this known defect, or the FAA gave too much leniency in the timeline (sometimes these are phased in over time to avoid grounding too many planes at once).

      So, yes, bad luck to be on the plane with the exploding engine, and sitting in the path of the flying debris, but not THAT extraordinary, because the risk of the engine fragmenting was known.

      • But the evidence is pretty convincing that the engine failure was contained in the official meaning of the term.

        The damage to the fuselage and broken window was well aft of the rotating parts of the engine. The damage was obviously (from the photos I've seen) a result of aerodynamic forces on some non structural part of the engine cowling blowing it up over the wind and into the aircraft. So the engine coming apart yet contained may be the trigger, but the fatal damage was from the cowling getting blown

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          My understanding of "contained" means that any ejected engine pieces go through the tailpipe (under the wing) where they are unlikely to do much damage. I would argue that if parts of the engine ahead of the wing were ejected upwards and/or forwards with so much force that they made it over the leading edge of the wing, it was an uncontained failure even if the part that hit the fuselage was part of the cowling severed by the fan blade, rather than the fan blade itself.

          More to the point, if that's not the

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        The FAA already issued an airworthiness directive (essentially the aircraft version of a mandatory recall) for these engines because of this type of failure. So either the airline didn't comply with the requirement, it wasn't sufficient to address this known defect, or the FAA gave too much leniency in the timeline (sometimes these are phased in over time to avoid grounding too many planes at once).

        Unless the FAA hasn't kept their website [faa.gov] up-to-date, that airworthiness directive hasn't gone into effect yet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

      These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body.

      You got stuff spinning round like really fast. If a bit breaks off it's going to go where the fuck it wants to.

      • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:4, Informative)

        by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @05:35AM (#56456919)

        Uhm no. That's exactly the opposite of how the engines are designed.

        Modern jet engines are specifically designed to contain all the debris in an engine failure - in particular all the blades which are both the most energetic and most durable. They destructively test by pyrotechnicaly detaching a blade at max RPM...go google, it's fun to watch.

        Something fucked up here and parts impacted the rather fragile plane...which happens, but it not the design intent. Had the engine not contained MOST of the debris they likely would not have been able to land at all.

        • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:5, Informative)

          by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @10:04AM (#56457743) Homepage

          Uhm no. That's exactly the opposite of how the engines are designed.

          Modern jet engines are specifically designed to contain all the debris in an engine failure - in particular all the blades which are both the most energetic and most durable. They destructively test by pyrotechnicaly detaching a blade at max RPM...go google, it's fun to watch.

          Something fucked up here and parts impacted the rather fragile plane...which happens, but it not the design intent. Had the engine not contained MOST of the debris they likely would not have been able to land at all.

          That is certainly the design intent, but that is not how things work in the real world. There are plenty of incidents where a blade liberation has exited the casing. The destructive test regimen is likely dictated by someone (probably the US and/or other governments), and you can bet that the engine is designed to pass the test but be no stronger (to save weight). Pyrotechnically detaching a single blade also does not 100% match some actual failure modes. For example, there are several reasons why multiple blades may liberate simultaneously or nearly simultaneously, causing a severe rotor unbalance which can lead to *more* blade failures.

          I'm not saying that the design and testing of these engines is inadequate, certainly it is good enough to limit real-world failures to a reasonable number. But it does not cover all cases or result in engine failure containment 100% of the time.

    • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @04:09AM (#56456789)

      It is a really weird failure. If you look at some of the photos around the place, you can see that it appears to be only one blade that has departed, and the rest of the fan looks remarkably undamaged. Rather than breaking free and flying into the fan housing (which is designed to contain a failure), it appears to have moved forward clear of the housing, and out through the engine cowling. Presumably from there it exited into the fuselage, or other bits of the cowling/ancillaries took out the window.

      But I agree, incredibly unlucky for the passenger involved. It is still quite remarkable how safe air travel is though, all things considered.

      • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
        Oh yeah, I used to have a room mate who was terrified of flying, despite the fact that the drive to the airport was much more dangerous statistically than flying anywhere was. It's just not something that happens on a daily basis, and that freaks people out.
    • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @05:36AM (#56456923) Homepage

      Not really the CFM56 engine in question has a history of fan blade failures. It was instrumental in the Kegworth air disaster in 1989 that after a couple more fan blade failures lead to a redesign and over 1800 CFM56's having them replaced.

      There was another uncontained fan blade failure on a CFM56 on Southwest Airlines Flight 3472 in August 2016 before yesterday's incident that was another uncontained engine failure and I will lay a large sum of money that it was a fan blade failure of a CFM56 engine.

      I would say that five fan blade failures on an engine is very unusual.

      This is not counting the numerous fuel flow problems and flame outs due to rain/hail ingestion this engine has suffered.

      • There has been a number of versions of CFM56, and it is one of the most common turbofan aircraft engines in the world (thus when one engine is in trouble, CFM56 is more likely to be involved).
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFM_International_CFM56
      • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @10:10AM (#56457793) Homepage

        I would say that five fan blade failures on an engine is very unusual.

        As a turbine engineer, I disagree. That is an excellent track record considering that the air ingested by the engine is unfiltered and damage may occur between major inspection intervals that are not picked up by the engine instrumentation or visual inspection.

        Land-based engines are generally built more robustly (since weight is not a concern), have extensive air filtration systems, similar inspection periods, less abuse (# of start/stop cycles per day), and yet they fail at a higher rate than this. 5 failures is a very low rate considering the fleet operating hours.

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          Except five high profile fan blade failures in a turbofan engine used on a passenger airplane is unusual.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body.

      This statement is factually wrong.

      When an uncontained engine failure happens - and they do happen - fragments of the blade can travel in any direction. It is random. In this case it looks like a piece went through the window. In that case, it is lucky no passengers were killed by a fragment.

      If you want to read just how badly a plane can be damaged by an uncontained engine failure, read up on what happened to QF32:

      https://en.wiki

      • > These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body.

        This statement is factually wrong.

        When an uncontained engine failure happens - and they do happen - fragments of the blade can travel in any direction. It is random. In this case it looks like a piece went through the window.

        It does not appear so to me. The problem with your theory is this. The broken window is well aft of all of the rotating engine parts and couldn't have been broken by an uncontained fan blade. It looks more like a piece of the engine cowling was driven by aerodynamic forces over the wing and it bounced off the aircraft breaking the window and leaving marks in the blue paint under it too.

        The engine failure looks like it was contained, but the cowling was damaged, departed the aircraft due to air flow and

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body. Explosion are also unlikely. Having all that plus some debris break a window is really bad luck for that passenger.

      This, CFM, Rolls Royce, Pratt and Whitney all design do a lot of testing to ensure their engines fail gracefully. I believe that a fan blade separation is one of the most tested scenarios. Debris is meant to be contained within the engine housing.

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body. Explosion are also unlikely. Having all that plus some debris break a window is really bad luck for that passenger.

        This, CFM, Rolls Royce, Pratt and Whitney all design do a lot of testing to ensure their engines fail gracefully. I believe that a fan blade separation is one of the most tested scenarios. Debris is meant to be contained within the engine housing.

        Meant to be. The test is failure of a single blade in a specific portion of the engine. There are other failure modes which may be more severe. Due to weight constraints, you can bet that the casing thickness is designed to be sufficient for this test but not significantly stronger.

    • Re:Really Bad luck (Score:5, Informative)

      by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @09:53AM (#56457695) Homepage

      These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body. Explosion are also unlikely. Having all that plus some debris break a window is really bad luck for that passenger.

      Turbine engineer here. While engines are definitely designed so that parts do not liberate through the casing, there are plenty of incidents where that has occurred.

      And explosions (as in an undesired rapid combustion of fuel and air) are indeed very unlikely. But explosions are not the most common failure mode. Blade liberation due to defects in the blade, or due to ingested material are the most common reason for a catastrophic failure.

      • As a former aircraft technician, I'd hazard to say that someone saw a potential problem yet didn't want to sacrifice the flight schedule. In a culture where they place anything and everything on MEL (minimum equipment list, pretty much a deferred maintenance action) just to make the flight, people cut corners. The reason I'm a former aircraft technician and not a current technician is because of those exact concerns. When the companies and culture place more emphasis on processes and procedures than the tec
    • These engines are manufactured a way not to propel debris towards the body. Explosion are also unlikely. Having all that plus some debris break a window is really bad luck for that passenger.

      It's even worse than that. This was not an uncontained engine failure by all appearances. The broken window was well behind the rotating parts of the engine and looks like it was hit by a large piece of something that left marks all around the window on the fuselage. My guess is that some large part covering the engine came up over the wing and struck the window, breaking it.

      This was the *definition* of a freak accident. The chances of an engine failure like this are very slim, especially at cruse. The

  • by multi io ( 640409 ) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @03:52AM (#56456749)
    Trump credited himself for the lack of U.S. aviation fatalities during his administration, so this one is on him.
    • Really? I was thinking he'll tweet "Passenger died on plane maintained on CHEATING OBAMA's watch! SAD!"
    • Trump credited himself for the lack of U.S. aviation fatalities during his administration, so this one is on him.

      Just once in a while I'm reminded why I keep reading /. Well done!

  • "bravely"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @04:09AM (#56456791)

    Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off

    So what would have been the cowardly variant? Crashing the plane?

    Adjectives have meaning. I mean, I'm glad that part of its left engine hasn't "tragically" ripped off since nowadays everything unfortunate or awful is "tragic". But what the fuck is "brave" about saving your beans? "In an extraordinary display of skills, presence of mind and composure": yeah.

    There are a fuckload of reasons to admire her feat. Braveness isn't one.

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      Agreed. There's far too much idiotic hyperbole in reporting these days - she was doing her job and if she didn't do it they'd all be dead including her. Its like everyone is "brave" for fighting [insert potentially terminal disease here]. If I had one I'd do my best to fight it, thats not brave , its self preservation!

      • Re:"bravely"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @04:43AM (#56456847)

        No, it's training and professionalism. The list of pilots who panicked in an emergency situation is longer than you'd want it to be. It's OK to praise people for doing their job well, especially when it means life or death for themselves too. Doing the right thing under these circumstances is hard.

        • Re:"bravely"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @05:32AM (#56456911)

          I don't care about the Brave, but defiantly skillful, professional, composed under pressure. Exactly what I would want in a pilot commanding a plane I am a passenger on.

    • Re:"bravely"? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @04:34AM (#56456831)

      Such language is typically used in these situations, and I don't recall anyone ever complaining when it's a male pilot involved. Pretty much every story on US flight 1549 called Sully Sullenberger "brave" and "heroic" for landing safely on the Hudson without engines. "Brave" is defined as "ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage". I'd say it fits.

      Of course you could complain about it for a different reason here; the tone could be taken as being rather condescending, as in "she's female, yet she managed not to panic like a girl, how brave!" I don't think that's how it was meant, but it could be taken that way.

      • The truth is the captain would have landed the plane the same way regardless if it was filled with passengers or only himself.

      • Of course you could complain about it for a different reason here; the tone could be taken as being rather condescending, as in "she's female, yet she managed not to panic like a girl, how brave!" I don't think that's how it was meant, but it could be taken that way.

        I did take it that way. There was a very similar incident in August 2016 (flight 3472)... same plane type, same failure, ruptured fuselage with depressurization, emergency landing. No fatality, but that was just luck. I don't recall seeing the pilot profiled in the news, nor any praise for his or her bravery or skill except from some passenger quotes. The coverage, in my opinion, is very much "oooo, a girl!". Because apparently a well-trained female doing her fucking job competently is still "news". Even th

    • by pots ( 5047349 )

      So what would have been the cowardly variant? Crashing the plane?

      Possibly. The cowardly variant might have involved giving up in the face of adversity, or panicking, and either of those things could have resulted in a crash. But not necessarily. She could have cowardly landed the plane safely, crouching down in her chair, covering her face and peeking at the gauges through the cracks in her fingers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Eh, "bravely" means exactly what we get from hearing the pilot in her interaction with air traffic control. According to the dictionary brave is someone: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. So, she definitely seemed ready and showed courage (presence of mind and composure as you yourself say) in the face of danger.

      Brave does not mean removing the headphone jack from a phone ("dick move" is more appropriate), brave does not mean jumping in the flames for fun ("reckless" is more appropri

    • Hey BeauHD (Score:2, Funny)

      by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Was the pilot a woman? It isn't clear from your summary. Maybe you should have pointed it out a few more times to make sure nobody missed it.
    • Adjectives have meaning

      "Bravely" is an adverb.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off

      So what would have been the cowardly variant? Crashing the plane?

      Adjectives have meaning. I mean, I'm glad that part of its left engine hasn't "tragically" ripped off since nowadays everything unfortunate or awful is "tragic". But what the fuck is "brave" about saving your beans? "In an extraordinary display of skills, presence of mind and composure": yeah.

      There are a fuckload of reasons to admire her feat. Braveness isn't one.

      You must be fun at parties.

      The pilot is brave because they kept extremely cool and professional under pressure. The definition of bravery is:

      1. endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behaviour) without showing fear.

      . I'd say that brave is definitely an apt description of the pilot and crew. I highly doubt that Terry Toughperson behind a keyboard on /. would have been able to maintain their composure.

    • Maybe there was a word limit on the article and the editor changed "incredible composure and presence of mind" to "bravely".
      • They also have to deal with the ever shrinking vocabulary of the average person in the United States due to decades of neglect, and outright contempt from some on the right, of the public education system.

        • Good job getting political! It's important to work that in every chance you get regardless of relevancy so that when you actually have an on-topic point we are already desensitized to your posts.

    • Brave may not be the best term, but the history of aviation disasters tell us that when things go wrong, some pilots rise to the occasion and others lose their minds. See the Colgan air disaster where the the pilot panicked and pulled up against a stall. Of the Air France flight where they lost instrument panel and the copilot might as well have been giving random input. OTOH see the Concorde disaster where the pilots were informed that their entire aircraft was engulfed in flames and they calmly kept fl
    • So what would have been the cowardly variant?... Adjectives have meaning.

      Brave [merriam-webster.com]:

      1. 1: Having (or showing) the mental (or moral) strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.
      2. 2: Making a fine show
      3. 3: Excellent, splendid

      Meanwhile, "cowardly" doing something would be doing it while showing disgraceful fear. I suppose that would be apparent in her voice and word choices.

    • Came here for technical news - left with a grammar lesson. :-P

  • When you look at the photo: https://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/da... [cnn.com] It looks like a single blade is missing. If the blade breaks and flies to the cabin, like a dagger, ripping things on the way, I can understand. But how did the whole front cowling get ripped in all directions? or did the wind rip pieces after the structure was damaged?
    • When you look at the photo: https://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/da... [cnn.com] It looks like a single blade is missing. If the blade breaks and flies to the cabin, like a dagger, ripping things on the way, I can understand. But how did the whole front cowling get ripped in all directions? or did the wind rip pieces after the structure was damaged?

      Think about it this way... That one blade broke loose and suddenly the whole engine is imbalanced and still turning at tens of thousands RPM's. I can see the front fan getting pretty wobbly as everything slows down, shredding the intake cowling.

      Also, look at where the broken window is. It is well behind the rotating parts of the engine... I don't think it was broken by a fan blade back there, more likely it was bumped by parts of the cowling driven by aerodynamic forces as they departed the aircraft. T

  • Okay to make a bit of light on this tragic situation has anyone else seen the footage coming out of various organisations from the disaster. The selifies are especially terrifying. Example: https://heavy.com/news/2018/04... [heavy.com]

    Doesn't anyone know how to use a god damn oxygen mask? I mean it has been a staple part of flight safety demonstrations since the 80s, but really look at the selfies, NO ONE seems to know how the oxygen masks work. Like people have them attached to their chins and stuff, I'm genuinely sur

    • Nobody suffered any air-less injury, so it seems the mask works however you use it.
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Doesn't anyone know how to use a god damn oxygen mask? I mean it has been a staple part of flight safety demonstrations since the 80s, but really look at the selfies, NO ONE seems to know how the oxygen masks work. Like people have them attached to their chins and stuff, I'm genuinely surprised no one is wearing one like a hat.

      I like the guy with the man-bun that couldn't even be bothered to take out his ear buds and doesn't even have the strap around his head. And of course, as you mention, not a single person has the mask covering mouth and nose like you are supposed to.

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