Southwest Airlines has sped up a sweeping inspection of its engines following a midair failure last week that killed a passenger, the airline's first fatal accident in its almost five decades of flying. But the engine parts that have been under the most scrutiny may not have been the only factor in the accident, a company executive said Thursday.
One of the fan blades on the Boeing 737-700 broke off during the New York-to-Dallas flight on April 17. After the blade broke off, shrapnel flew, puncturing the fuselage. A passenger, bank executive Jennifer Riordan, was partially sucked through a blown-out window, and died. But the engine also lost part of its cowling, which surrounds the engine's fan.
"Now, we know that the engine inlet cowling suffered significant damage and lost pieces of that cowling may be responsible for the damage to the fuselage, the wing and the stabilizer," said Southwest COO Mike Van de Ven on a call after posting earnings on Thursday. "And the loss of a single blade inside the engine just shouldn't have caused such dramatic impact."