Southwest Airlines’ explosive engine failure ‘extremely rare event,’ expert says

Scott Hamilton

SEATTLE — Explosive engine failures, like the one on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on Tuesday, are not uncommon but rarely this destructive, an aviation expert said.

Scott Hamilton, aviation expert and consultant with the Leeham Company, says there are three or four engine failures or explosions each year in the United States.

“When you have this sort of explosive engine failure, of the type that Southwest had, it’s an extremely rare event, ” said Hamilton.

He says the investigators will be looking at several factors, including whether the plane ingested a foreign object on takeoff, whether the engine overheated, and they will look at the maintenance records of the aircraft.

“Boeing will be going to help the National Transportation Safety Board answer whatever questions they may have, the NTSB may have,” said Hamilton. “And while I doubt this is a Boeing issue, its Boeing’s name on the side of the airplane.”

Hamilton says the engines on all 737s are not made by Boeing. He says its made by a company called C.F.M., and the engines are used exclusively on Boeing 737 planes, and some Airbus A320 planes.

“What we’re really looking here is not the airplane per se, but the engine. It’s the CFM 56 engine,” said Hamilton. “It’s just an incredibly reliable engine, and something of this magnitude is extraordinarily rare.”

So what does this mean for passengers planning on taking air travel in the new future?

“I don’t think that the passengers really should worry,” said Hamilton. “Globally, you have hundreds of thousands of flights, millions of flights every year, and you have maybe three or four uncontrolled engine failures per year, none of which, or very few of which reach this magnitude.”

Hamilton says there are more than 8,000 Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 in service today, and passenger should not be concerned about taking one of these flights.

“You frankly take your life in your hands in a whole lot riskier situations just getting into your own bathtub,” said Hamilton.