April 23 (UPI) — Southwest Airlines said it canceled dozens of flights to inspect engines on some of the Boeing 737 aircraft in its fleet, following a related accident last week that killed one passenger.
In a statement Sunday, Southwest said the cancellations of 40 flights represented just 1 percent of its scheduled flights.
“We have minimized flight disruptions this past week through actions such as proactive aircraft routings to cover open trips, performing inspections overnight, and utilizing spare aircraft, when available,” the airline said.
Southwest said the engine inspections and cancellations were voluntary, and part of the carrier’s own engine fan blade inspection program announced last week.
Passenger Jennifer Riordan, 43, was killed on a Southwest flight from New York City to Dallas last week after metal fatigue caused a fan blade to break away — and shrapnel to break a window on the plane. The flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Riordan, who was partly pulled outside the fuselage by the force of the escaping air pressure, was severely injured when flying debris punctured the passenger cabin.
The death was the first of a passenger on a U.S. flight since 2009, and marked the first passenger death in Southwest’s 47-year history.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered airlines to inspect fan blades on all engines similar to the one that failed on the Southwest flight.
The maker of the engine, CFM International, called for an inspection of the fan blades on its CFM56-7B engines. The manufacturer said the order affected 352 engines in the United States and 681 globally.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the engine malfunction.