The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing changes and additional inspections for nearly 2,000 Boeing planes in the United States. These measures aim to prevent a repeat of the engine-housing breakup that tragically led to a passenger’s death on a Southwest Airlines flight in 2018.
The proposal, released by the FAA on Tuesday, largely aligns with recommendations made by Boeing to airlines in July. It will mandate the replacement of fasteners and other engine proximity parts on many older Boeing 737s.
Airlines have been given until the end of July 2028 to implement these changes, which were developed by Boeing. However, the modifications will not be required for the newer Max jets, which are the latest version of the 737.
The FAA’s initiative comes in response to two incidents that involved parts of the cowling breaking away from planes. One incident occurred in 2016, while the fatal accident happened two years later on a Southwest Airlines jet flying over Pennsylvania.
In both cases, the incidents were triggered by broken fan blades. In the second incident, a broken blade struck a critical point on the engine-fan case, sparking a chain reaction that led to the cowling detaching and striking the aircraft. This resulted in a shattered window and the tragic death of a 43-year-old mother of two who was seated next to that window.
Following this passenger’s death, the FAA ordered emergency inspections of fan blades and mandated the replacement of cracked blades in similar CFM International engines. The engine manufacturer had actually recommended these intensified inspections a year prior to the fatal flight.
Now, the FAA believes that further regulations are necessary to decrease the likelihood of engine-housing parts breaking away when fan blades fail.
Under the new proposal, airlines will be required to replace fasteners on specific planes and install additional parts on all affected 737s.
Approximately 1,979 planes registered in the United States will be impacted by this proposal, according to the FAA’s estimates.
Public comments on the proposal will be accepted by the agency until January 26.