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Fatalities Caused by Aircraft Engine Failures Are Rare


April 24, 2018

In a report in Business Insider, airline pilot Patrick Smith provides valuable insight into the engine failure that forced the emergency landing of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380. The incident killed a passenger and forced the plane’s pilot to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. During the emergency landing, the airplane’s pilot and crew managed to preserve the safety of all of the other passengers on the plane. 

According to Smith, aircraft engines are very reliable and do not fail often. Smith explains that there are two ways that airplane engines fail. Of the two, unconfined engine failure, the type of failure that grounded Flight 1380, is the least common. However, it is the more dangerous type of engine failure because the engine’s components can get ejected from it at high speeds. 

The fans, shafts, turbines, and compressors inside of an aircraft engine spin at extremely fast speeds. If one of those parts cracks or comes apart from the others, the force of the rotation can send pieces of the engine in many different directions. When this happens, metal pieces can puncture fuel tanks, damage the frame of the aircraft, and even penetrate the cabin of the plane. For that reason, unconfined engine failures can cause serious injury or death. In fact, the passenger that got killed on Flight 1380 got hit by metal shrapnel that entered the aircraft cabin as the result of the uncontained engine failure. 

The other, more common, type of aircraft engine failure happens when the engine shuts off. Every commercial jetliner has at least two engines, and when one of the engines shuts off, the plane can still fly properly. Pilots even receive training so that they can safely take off or fly in the event of engine shutoff.

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Sources: Cited in the article

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.