If you are anything like me, you have constant access to your Twitter feed. Besides the fact that it’s a platform for developing relationships with professionals across the world, it is my source for news. I use it to find out what is going on in the justice system, legal technology, and world events. Today, my feed erupted with news of a Southwest Airlines emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. If you use Twitter, your feed probably reacted similarly.
According to an article from CBS Channel 3 in Philadelphia, the airliner made a successful emergency landing, “after an engine blew out as the plane left LaGuardia Airport in New York on Tuesday morning.”
It seems that after the explosion in the engine, some shrapnel damaged one of the passenger windows causing the plane to depressurize. Early reports describe one passenger as being partially sucked out of the plane at the broken window. A horrifically frightening event for certain. Luckily, the plane made a safe emergency landing. It appears several passengers were injured and one life was lost.
These incidents leave passengers shaken and afraid. Some suffer physical and emotional damage. Those of us who hear of these events experience a feeling of unease the next time we have to take a flight. Safety, is the top priority for travelers and transportation companies alike, which is why agencies like the NTSB react swiftly to the news of an emergency landing due to engine failure. At the time of this writing, the NTSB is about to hold their first news conference on this aviation accident.
Since matters like this often lead to litigation, I reached out to some of our aviation accident investigation and reconstruction expert witnesses. As of publication, I received one response. We will update the blog post if other responses come in.
Let’s hear from the aviation accident investigator:
Nick: Where would an aviation accident investigation begin?
Mr. Ditchey: The most important starting point is to quarantine the aircraft itself and do a thorough inspection of the aircraft and all of its parts and components. That is quickly followed by an examination of the maintenance records, which are also quarantined immediately.
Nick: Is it common for an engine failure to break a window and cause cabin depressurization?
Mr. Ditchey: Engine failure itself is today very uncommon. It is even more uncommon to have resultant damage to the aircraft as a result of engine failure. The engine is designed to contain any mechanical damage to the engine.
Nick: It seems an incident like this has a variety of different issues including: engine failure, engine maintenance, safety protocols, aircrew training and response to emergency. What issue takes priority?
Mr. Ditchey: None take priority per se. All are very important.
Nick: What is the NTSB’s priority in responding to this incident?
Mr. Ditchey: NTSB’s first priority is to discover what caused the engine failure.
Nick: What is the airline’s priority in responding to this incident?
Mr. Ditchey: Find out what happened and ensure that it won’t happen again.
Nick: Any thoughts or comments you would like to add…
Mr. Ditchey: The traveling public needs to be assured that the odds of a fatality are minuscule and that nobody is going to get hurt. Next, we all need to give the NTSB some breathing time and our patience to let the investigators do their job.