NTSB questions Southwest, Boeing in hearing to determine cause of deadly Flight 1380

Ian Bush
November 14, 2018 - 3:29 pm
The National Transportation Safety Board is onsite inspecting a Southwest airline plane after engine failure caused the plane to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

@NTSB_Newsroom/Twitter via CNN

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WASHINGTON (KYW Newsradio) — Flight attendant Rachel Fernheimer recalled a violent shaking and a very loud "vroom" while she was in a bathroom on Flight 1380. But it wasn't turbulence, as she suspected. 

She opened the door to find smoke in the cabin and debris flying around. 

Fernheimer described the scene to the National Transportation Safety Board in a hearing Wednesday, detailing the events of the engine failure of Southwest Flight 1380 back in April 17.

The Dallas-bound jetliner from New York was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Seven people were injured and one died.

RELATED: Aviation expert says 'plenty of blame to go around' in Southwest Flight 1380 deadly crash

The nearly six-hour hearing wrapped up Wednesday in Washington, D.C., where the NTSB questioned officials from Southwest Airlines, Boeing, and airline part makers as to the cause of the disaster.

In a newly released interview by the NTSB, Fernheimer said she went row by row of the plane, securing oxygen masks as passengers asked her, "Are we going to make it?" 

Fernheimer found passenger Jennifer Riordan buckled in her row 14 seat, but her upper body was being sucked out a broken window. With help from two men — one stuck his arm outside and grabbed Riordan by the shoulder — they got her back in the plane. Riordan later died from her injuries.

RELATED: 8 passengers from Southwest Flight 1380 file suit against airline, engine manufacturers

In additional testimony, Mark Habedank, with fan blade maker CFM, said the blade that failed on Flight 1380 had been inspected in 2012. They've since learned that a small crack existed — about 1/16 of an inch — but technology at the time wasn't able catch it. 

He told John DeLisi with the NTSB that current inspections as of 2018 are better equipped — and eight blades have been since pulled from service. 

"That's a lot of blades that are cracking," DeLisi added. "Is this a surprise to CFM to see blades being pulled from service long before the expected fatigue life?"

"Well, yes," Habedank responded, "unexpected up until a couple years ago, until we understood the problem. What we're seeing now, based on our new knowledge, material testing evaluation, and data we're getting from the field, we have a good idea why we're seeing it, and the number we're seeing is consistent with our analytical model."

RELATED: Crew of Southwest Flight 1380 open up about experience

Other questions during the hearing focused on the Boeing 737's engine: Why couldn't it contain the shards that ended up piercing the fuselage and shattering a cabin window?

When that happened, it was "like a marble hitting glass" — the plane shook violently, dropped suddenly.

Federal investigators plan to release in detail early next year the probable cause of the deadly disaster.