There’s something both chilling and deeply saddening about these images. I don’t post that much art that involves zombies or dead bodies– zombies and gore for the sake of gore fail to make me feel much of anything. Dead astronauts and cosmonauts are a different story.
On April 17th, 2018, as Southwest Flight 1380 flew over Pennsylvania, a fan blade shattered in one of the Boeing 737’s engines. The resulting uncontained engine failure flung shrapnel into the aircraft’s fuselage, destroying a window and claiming the life of passenger Jennifer Riordan.
Jet engines on commercial aircraft are built to contain malfunctions within the engine casing, as pieces from the engine can exit at a high rate of speed. An uncontained failure is one in which the shrapnel escapes the engine housing.
The faulty fan blade was produced by CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric and France’s Safran S.A. This manufacturer had been under increased scrutiny since Southwest Flight 3472 suffered a similar uncontained engine failure over Florida in 2016.
In the case of Flight 3472, metal shrapnel also sliced into the fuselage and breached the protection barrier. With pressure escaping from the cabin, oxygen masks dropped and the pilots were forced to bring the aircraft into a descent so that passengers could breathe. The front edge of the jet’s wing, horizontal tail stabilizer, and winglet were also damaged.
At this point you may be asking why this tragedy was allowed to happen after the FAA, the manufacturer, and the airline all knew there was a problem. The answer is as ugly as you’d think.
On the evening of Friday August 10th, 2018, Horizon Air Ground Service Agent Richard Russell approached an unattended Horizon Bombardier Q400 parked in a cargo and maintenance area of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After using equipment to rotate the plane toward the runway, Russell boarded and started the engines. Soon he was taxiing despite the protests of Sea-Tac Air Traffic Control.
The Seattle plane thief’s flight struck a chord with me. Although I caught the story just a few short hours after Russell ended his life, I deliberately avoided listening to the recordings of his conversation with ATC.
The following week, a couple of coworkers decided to listen to the audio. Walking out of our shared office would have looked strange, so I sat and listened to the Seattle plane thief’s final hour while filing my flight packets.