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New inspections mandated for locally produced engines

New inspections are being mandated today for parts of an airplane engine produced by companies with a strong Southwestern Ohio presence.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is scheduled to issue a new “airworthiness direction” today as a follow-on to the emergency directive published April 20, engine manufacturer CFM and GE Aviation said.

This new directive mandates “ultrasonic and eddy current inspection of all CFM56-7B fan blades that have accumulated more than 20,000 cycles,” as outlined in the CFM service bulletin issued April 20. These inspections are to be completed by Aug. 31 this year, the companies said.

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The directive also mandates that airlines continue to perform these inspections every 3,000 cycles — 1.5 to 2 years of operation. In addition, airlines are required to perform these inspections on fan blades once they reach the 20,000 cycle milestone, with the continued 3,000-cycle inspections.

The inspections are being mandated after a CFM engine blew apart April 17 on a Southwest Airlines flight. The affected Southwest Boeing 737 took off from New York, headed for Dallas, and about 20 minutes into the flight, at an altitude of about 32,500 feet, a fan blade broke off the engine and shrapnel shattered a window on the plane.

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The FAA and European regulators have required that about 680 CFM56-7B engines worldwide be inspected within 20 days on Boeing 737 NG airplanes.

About 500 people tied to those two regional companies — CFM and GE Aviation — have been involved in inspecting the engine fan blades, making sure those components are airworthy.

CFM International is a joint venture between French firm Safran and GE Aviation that has offices in West Chester Twp. in Butler County.

The engine in question is assembled in the GE-Evendale, Ohio plant and by Safran (previously Snecma )in Villaroche, France.

Jamie Jewell, a GE Aviation spokeswoman, has said the CFM engine has been in service since 1997 and production has been gradually phasing out as GE and CFM ramp-up introduction of the new LEAP engine.

“None of that is as a result of SWA (Southwest Airlines) incident,” Jewell said last month.

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