The Southwest Airlines Co. accident that killed a passenger on Tuesday represents the first passenger fatality in Southwest’s 51-year history. The National Transportation Safety Board is silent about how the passenger was killed. According to a person familiar with the matter, she was struck by pieces of the crippled engine that came in through the plane window. The plane, piloted by Tammie Jo Shults, made an emergency landing at around 11:27 a.m. on Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport. There were 144 passengers and five crew members on board.
A single fast-rotating fan blade inside the engine broke off as the plane was cruising normally. This unexpected hazard appears to have played a role in the emergency landing of Southwest Flight 1380 after a violent engine rupture at 32,000 feet sent fast-moving debris into the jet’s left wing, exterior of the plane’s body and inside the passenger cabin.
The blade’s failure appears to have badly damaged the engine’s external cover, known as the cowling. Investigators have found numerous remnants of the cowling on the ground, including a large piece roughly 65 miles from where the plane touched down. Investigators are expected to find out whether ultrasound inspections were conducted as recommended in June 2017 by engine maker CFM. Southwest operates more than 700 Boeing 737 jets.