Southwest pilots righted plane quickly after engine failed

[Breaking news update, published at 10:20 p.m. ET]Southwest Airlines released a statement fro...

Posted: Apr 19, 2018 12:28 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2018 12:28 PM

[Breaking news update, published at 10:20 p.m. ET]

Southwest Airlines released a statement from the two pilots: "As captain and first officer of the crew of five who worked to serve our customers aboard Flight 1380 yesterday, we all feel we were simply doing our jobs. Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family's profound loss. We joined our company today in focused work and interviews with investigators. We are not conducting media interviews, and we ask that the public and the media respect our focus."

[Previous story, published at 8:59 p.m. ET]

When the engine on the left wing broke in mid-flight, the pilots of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 had to deal with a 737 that suddenly banked left on its own, well past any angle they would use.

The plane was pitched at an angle of more than 40 degrees for a few unnerving seconds before it leveled out and began an emergency descent, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The plane was ascending past 32,500 feet Tuesday morning and 144 passengers were settled in for a three-hour flight when a fan blade in the No. 1 engine apparently broke. A window next to a passenger in row 14 shattered and she was sucked into the hole while other passengers struggled to pull her back into the cabin.

The woman -- identified as Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico -- died at a hospital. Seven other people had minor injuries.

Riordan died from blunt impact trauma of the head, neck and torso, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said.

Sumwalt said investigators do not know how the window broke. There was no acrylic found in the plane, he added.

He said the plane rolled to 41 degrees, when pilots rarely go to 25 degrees.

The flight was 20 minutes into its trip from New York to Dallas.

Suddenly, alarms blared in the cockpit as what passengers said sounded like an explosion boomed from the left side of the plane. Oxygen masks swiftly dropped from the ceiling.

What followed was a terrifying sequence of events that left Riordan dead, seven others injured and precipitated an emergency landing. The plane's engine had undergone a visual inspection just two days before.

Southwest said in an email that on Sunday workers had looked at the inlet, exhaust, cowlings, and fairings.

"The next scheduled blade lube, and the first ultrasonic inspection on the No. 1 engine of aircraft 772, was scheduled to be accomplished in December of this year," Southwest said.

'Everybody was going crazy'

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia Airport at 10:27 a.m. and landed in Philadelphia about 11:23 a.m.

The Boeing 737 was headed to Dallas with 144 passengers and five crew members. For about 20 minutes, everything seemed calm. Then "a loud boom" suddenly jolted the plane, passenger Marty Martinez said.

"About five seconds later, all the oxygen masks deployed," he said. "I immediately knew something was wrong. It just didn't register what could have been."

Something in the engine broke apart midair and burst through the window, passengers said. A woman was sucked toward the hole where the window once had been as passengers struggled to pull her back in.

"Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming," Martinez said. "As the plane is going down, I am literally purchasing internet just so I can get some kind of communication to the outside world."

Objects flying out

As the plane quickly descended and passengers continued scrambling to pull the woman away from the window, other passengers stuffed clothes and jackets into the hole, said Martinez, who was sitting two rows away from the woman. Those items got sucked out of the plane, too, he said.

"We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window," Martinez said.

In the chaos, it was hard to hear anyone. Flight tracking website Flightradar24 estimated the plane descended from 31,684 feet to 10,000 feet in about five minutes.

"It was very loud, so announcements from the pilot or any other crew would not have been heard," passenger Amy Serafini said.

Passenger Matt Tranchin watched the commotion as people tried to help.

"Everyone kind of descended on where this hole was," he said.

He thought about his family and whether he'd see them again. The thoughts were terrifying.

"That I'll never live to see my son born. That I'll never be able to say goodbye to my wife, say goodbye to my parents. But I am. I feel really very fortunate for that," he told CNN affiliate WPVI.

Nurse performs CPR

After trying to pull the woman back for several minutes, a man in a cowboy hat and a second man finally got her into her seat, Serafini said.

A nurse aboard the flight performed CPR.

"We started CPR on the lady, which we continued for about 20 minutes. We were still doing CPR when the plane landed," Peggy Williams said. "We made every effort that we could possibly make to save this woman's life."

Martinez said it was a rough landing, and he wasn't sure if the plane was going to crash. The jet could have been landing on a freeway for all he knew, he said.

"I didn't know if we were going to be running into a building. I didn't know what state the plane or even the pilot was in, if we were in condition to land," he said. "Finally when we ... came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive."

Air traffic call

Before the plane landed, the pilot asked the air traffic controller to send medics to meet it on the tarmac.

"Injured passengers OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?" the air traffic controller asked.

"No, it's not on fire, but part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and that someone went out," the pilot responded.

"Um, I'm sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380, it doesn't matter we will work it out there," the air traffic controller said.

The controller asked other planes to prepare for the airport to be shut down.

The investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary look at the engine shows one of its 24 fan blades was missing.

There was evidence of metal fatigue where the blade attached to a hub, Sumwalt said.

"In aviation, there should be inspection techniques and procedures in place to detect something like that. What we want to find out is why was this not detected ahead of time," Sumwalt told CNN on Wednesday.

Metal fatigue is not something that could be seen at a glance, and because it was internal, even a careful maintenance inspection from outside the engine may have missed it, he said. The fan blade spins at several thousand revolutions per minute, so when it was "liberated," Sumwalt said, it basically broke into shrapnel.

It was not an explosion, he said, likening it more to a car's combustion engine throwing a rod, which bangs around the engine.

"More than likely, when the engine fan blade separated, it caused the cowling to separate and end up in this small town northwest of the airport," he said.

The cowling was found about 70 miles from where the plane landed. The FBI has asked anyone who find parts of the aircraft to contact the agency's Allentown, Pennsylvania, office. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania State Police secured a hunk of debris found 8 miles north of Reading, near Blue Marsh Lake.

The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have been sent to Washington, Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt told CNN that Kelly assured him Tuesday night that Southwest will be conducting "an aggressive ultrasonic inspection campaign for their entire fleet."

The engine had been used for 40,000 cycles (takeoffs and landings) and had been overhauled 10,700 flights ago, Southwest said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday night it will issue a directive in the next two weeks requiring inspections of certain CFM56-7B engines. The directive will require an ultrasonic inspection of fan blades when they reach a fixed number of cycles.

Passenger identified as 43-year-old mother of 2

Riordan, 43, worked for Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to the bank. Southwest said hers was the first in-flight death in company history.

"This is a sad day and our hearts go out to the family and the loved ones of the deceased customer," Kelly said. "We will do all that we can to support them during this very difficult time."

In a statement, Wells Fargo called her "a well-known leader who was loved and respected."

She is survived by two children and her husband, Michael Riordan, who was once the chief operating officer for the city of Albuquerque, CNN affiliate KOAT reported.

Her family said in a statement that her impact on those she touched "can never be fully measured."

"She is the bedrock of our family. She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other. Her beauty and love is evident through her children," the statement said. "In her memory, please remember to always be kind, loving, caring and sharing."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
Rochester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Another round of severe weather tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Pandemic food benefits available to families

Image

Sean Weather 6/5

Image

Covid-19 Cases on the Rise

Image

Becoming a better ally

Image

Giving your best

Image

Coronavirus attacking your blood vessels?

Image

Young Protester's impact on police reform

Image

How important are school resource officers?

Image

Graffiti on Rochester trail

Image

Expedited breast cancer treatment

Community Events