So let’s talk about this. First of all, I want to say how sorry I am for the passenger who lost her life and for those who were injured and experienced this very scary situation. A huge applause for the flight crew on this Southwest flight #1380 to safely handle this very challenging situation. We are trained for engine failures and decompression but this was especially rough due to the nature of the damage.
Honestly, I have been amazed at how reliable the engines have been in general. If you think about all the engines on all the jets flown and how many flight per day go out around the world, this is an extremely rare event to occur. The jet engines are built with a containment ring around them. They are there to prevent any engine blades or pieces from departing the engine housing. All parts are suppose to stay within this housing, even when there is a catastrophic failure. You can watch below a video of an engine test failure – you will see how the fan blade comes apart (usually due to fatigue or stress fracture) which then takes out a few other blades creating an imbalance of the engine. Once the engine is out of balance, the other blades scrape against the inner shielding. The engine either shuts itself down automatically within 15 seconds or the pilots do with cockpit indication or warnings and jet feel.
The airplanes are made to be able to fly on one engine if its a two engine aircraft. But in most engine failure circumstances, the jet stays pressurized. In this case, the engine pieces departed the protective housing breaching the window causing passenger harm and a depressurization. The pilots had to get the jet down to a safe altitude of 10,000ft for better oxygen pressure as well as handle the damaged engine failure situation. This may feel like the jet is “diving” for the ground but the pilots are in control of aggressively descending to 10,000ft. Please know that you MUST put your oxygen mask over both your nose and your mouth so you are getting 100% oxygen to you lungs. The air at high altitudes is thinner so there is less pressure to get that O2 into your lungs so you need put put on the mask quickly just as we do.
The rest of the crew and passengers were safely on the ground. The results from this will surely be more finite inspections of fan blades and stronger containment rings built into the engines. I hope and pray the passengers and crew can be at peace with no fear holding them back. Air travel is the safest mode of transportation as well as the most efficient.
I hope this helps you to feel more at ease. For more information on air travel and making your flight more enjoyable, please get my book “Remove Before Flight” to help you remove any fears or concerns before your next flight!
Blue Skies and Smooth Rides,