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Southwest, Delta engine inspections continue, some flights affected

Southwest Airlines said it canceled about 40 flights Sunday as it inspects engine fan blades in the wake of an engine failure last week that led to one passenger’s death. 

That’s about 1 percent of Dallas-based Southwest’s daily schedule of nearly 4,000 flights. Southwest is the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The airline encourages passengers to check their flight status. “We anticipate minimal delays or cancellations each day due to the inspections,” Southwest said in a written statement.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, the largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson, has the same type of engines on the Boeing 737s in its fleet and is also adding ultrasonic inspections of the engines, but said it doesn’t expect any operational impact to customers.

Both airlines last week, in advance of the Federal Aviation Administration’s official release of an emergency airworthiness directive, said they would accelerate the inspections.

The FAA on Friday issued the anticipated directive requiring airlines to inspect fan blades on certain engines within 20 days. The directive draws from information gathered in the investigation of Southwest’s engine failure last Tuesday. The FAA said the inspection requirement is estimated to affect 352 engines in the the United States and 681 engines worldwide.

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The CFM56-7B engine that blew on the Southwest flight showed evidence of “metal fatigue,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board. That engine model is on all of Southwest’s 737-700s and 737-800s, which make up the vast majority of Southwest’s fleet.

Delta has a fleet of about 185 Boeing 737s with the engines, out of a fleet of more than 800 planes of various types.

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