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Speeches

Board Meeting: Left Engine Failure and Subsequent Depressurization, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, Boeing 737-7H4, N772SW - Opening Statement
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center, Washington, DC
11/19/2019

​Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board.

I am Robert Sumwalt, and I’m honored to serve as the Chairman of the NTSB. Joining us are my colleagues on the Board: Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg and Member Jennifer Homendy.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the left engine failure and subsequent depressurization of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 while climbing through 32,000 feet, which necessitated an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on April 17, 2018.

A fan blade had fractured at its dovetail in what is called a fan blade out (FBO) event. In the chain of events that resulted, portions of the inlet and fan cowl separated from the airplane, a fan cowl fragment struck the airplane’s fuselage near a cabin window, the window departed the airplane, and the cabin rapidly depressurized. One passenger died as a result of the accident, and 8 others sustained minor injuries.

On behalf of my colleagues on the Board and the entire NTSB staff, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the loved ones of the passenger who was lost that day.  The purpose of our discussions today is to learn from this accident to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The airplane was a Boeing 737-700, and the engine was a CFM56-7B. When the accident occurred, the NTSB was already investigating an engine failure resulting from an FBO event involving a CFM56-7B engine on another Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 in August 2016.

The earlier event, and the event that we are discussing today, resulted in a series of inspections from the engine manufacturer, CFM, and from the Federal Aviation Administration, intended to detect fatigue cracking, which led to the events.

But we will go beyond inspections and discuss a lesson discovered as a result of the Philadelphia FBO event. That lesson is the concept of a critical location for an FBO impact on the engine case. During this FBO event, the fan blade impacted the fan case at a location that was critical to the structural integrity of the fan cowl. 

This discovery puts manufacturers and aircraft operators in a position to take actions that can ensure the structural integrity of the fan cowl if an FBO event does occur. We also recognize that other airframe/engine combinations might have critical fan blade impact locations and an impact at those locations could affect nacelle components, including the inlet and fan cowl.

And, although not a factor in the accident outcome, we will discuss the flight crew’s performance during the emergency, including the crew’s decision to land at Philadelphia.

In today’s Board meeting, the staff will lay out the pertinent facts and analysis found in the draft report. They will present findings, a probable cause, and recommendations to the Board.

We on the Board will then question staff. We will deliberate and vote on any amendments necessary to ensure that the report as adopted truly provides the best opportunity to enhance safety.

On November 14, 2018, the NTSB held an investigative hearing to discuss this accident, available on our website, www.ntsb.gov. The public docket for today’s board meeting, also available on our website, contains more than 1,300 pages of additional information, including photos and postaccident interviews.  Once finalized, the accident report will be available on our website as well.

Now, Managing Director Sharon Bryson, if you would kindly introduce the staff.