Southwest Airlines Emergency Landing

David Maialetti /The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

1 Dead After Engine Fails On Southwest Airlines Flight From NYC

April 17, 2018 - 12:14 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (WCBS 880) -- One person died Tuesday after an engine blew out and shattered at least one window on a Southwest Airlines flight en route to Dallas from LaGuardia Airport.

The plane made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane landed after the crew reported that one of the engines was damaged. The landing was safe and passengers were escorted off.

“It goes without saying it was with great sadness that I can confirm a passenger fatality today on Flight Number 1380,” said Southwest Airlines chief executive officer Gary C. Kelly.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said fire crews were sent out for an engine fire at 11:10 a.m. Upon arriving at the airport, found a small engine fire with a fuel leak, Thiel said.

But National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said it later appeared that there was not actually an engine fire.

But he said a fan blade separated at the point of the engine hub, and an engine cowling was found in the town of Bernville, Pennsylvania well to the northwest of Philadelphia.

Sumwalt said metal fatigue was likely to blame for the fan blade separating.

Marty Martinez, a passenger on the flight, was live streaming on Facebook during the incident.

"Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!" Martinez wrote.

Martinez said the engine blew and caused one of the windows to shatter two aisles over from him.

"First there was an explosion and almost immediately, the oxygen masks came down and, probably in a matter of 10 seconds, the engine hit a window and busted it wide open," Martinez told CBS News. "I thought I was cataloging the last moments of my existence the whole way. It was absolutely terrifying."

"It felt like it was freefalling," Martinez said. "We were probably going down for 10 or 15 minutes. And of course, everyone is freaking out, everyone is crying. It was the scariest experience."

Sumwalt later said the board had been informed of one fatality. CBS2 reported the victim who died was a woman sitting next to the window.

“Some of (the shrapnel) struck the window, which then struck the passenger sitting next to the window. She actually began to be sucked out of the window because of the pressure. This aircraft was at 31,000 feet when this happened. Passengers helped pull her back in. The pilots began to descend as quickly as they possibly could, and then, of course, were able to make that emergency landing in Philadelphia,” said CBS News Transportation Analyst and former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker.

Officials had not identified the victim late Tuesday.

Thiel said 12 other patients were assessed, and seven were treated for minor injuries, but none were hospitalized.

"There was blood everywhere," Martinez said.

After the plane landed, Martinez posted photos of the window.

Thiel said there was some damage to the fuselage of the plane, but had no further information.

A photo posted to Twitter showed significant damage to the left side of the plane.

Southwest Airlines said there were 143 passengers and five crewmembers onboard the flight.

"We are in the process of gathering more information," the airline said in a statement. "Safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we are working diligently to support our Customers and Crews at this time."

Kristen Johanson of KYW Newsradio reported Southwest said it was transporting passengers and crewmembers to a terminal Tuesday afternoon.

Philadelphia Emergency Management Director Dan Bradley said his office was working with Southwest Airlines to provide support to passengers, and get them to their destinations.

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said similar incidents have happened before, and an investigation will be launched as to what happened. He said it could have been a compressor stall, a fan blade disintegration, or even a bird strike.

“Nobody knows, but at that altitude, once you have that sort of rapid decompression, the pilots did what they were trained to do – look not only for the nearest airport, but the nearest airport with the longest runway, hence Philadelphia,” Greenberg said.

Aircraft windows are designed to stand a certain amount of force, but they can be broken in situations like the one that occurred on the Southwest flight, Greenberg said.

“When you’re traveling at 500 miles an hour, and you have rapid disintegration of an engine, and you have things flying off that engine at 500 miles an hour, it could have been a whole lot worse than it did. Luckily, it was only one window or two that were penetrated,” Greenberg told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott.

Greenberg said a Boeing 737 is certified to fly and land with only one functional engine. But with only one engine running, he said, “your fuel burn goes up dramatically – almost exponentially,” and the engine was disintegrating on top of it.

Sumwalt is himself a former 737 pilot, and said the accident was far from a commonplace.

“It’s very unusual, and so we are taking this event extremely seriously. This should not happen, and we want to find out why it happened so that we can make sure the preventive measures are put in place,” Sumwalt said.

The NTSB has sent a team to Philadelphia. Sumwalt said sound recorders on the plane have been secured, and the engine will be shipped offsite for a detailed examination.

The NTSB go team will have to determine for certain whether there was an “uncontained engine failure,” where bits and pieces of the metal went flying like shrapnel, Rosenker said.

Rosenker also noted pilots routinely work in simulators for all kinds of emergency situations, so “when they do have a problem like this, they’re not looking at their books.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said Tuesday that he is “very, very troubled” incident. Blumenthal sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“Obviously, the loss of life is one life too many, even though it’s the first in 10 years, and my heart goes out to the loved ones of that person, and to all the passengers who were forced to go through this traumatic experience,” Blumenthal told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace.

Blumenthal said the pilot deserved kudos for landing so quickly, and the first responders also deserved credit. But he said more oversight is needed at the FAA.

In an unrelated incident, a Delta Airlines plane that took off from LaGuardia landed safely in Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon after losing a wheel.

Delta Connection Flight 5507 had been headed for Richmond, Virginia from LaGuardia. Around 12:12 p.m., the pilot declared an emergency and asked to be diverted to Dulles International Airport, the Washington Post reported.

Passengers and crewmembers were taken to the terminal and will be bused to Richmond, the newspaper reported.