New questions about whether regulators, Southwest acted quickly enough after prior failure

PHILADELPHIA -- Mandatory inspections will soon be ordered for jet engines similar to the one that failed in the deadly Southwest Airlines incident. There are new questions Thursday about whether government regulators and the airline acted quickly enough after a prior failure in 2016.

Investigators are continuing to work on the Southwest 737 that had an engine blow out in flight on Tuesday, killing 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan. The NTSB said the mother of two was wearing her seat belt when she was partially sucked out of the plane. 

"My heart is broken for them," said firefighter Andrew Needum, who rushed to help to pull Riordan back inside.

"I'm trained for emergency situations, and that's exactly what it was," Needum said. 

After an eerily similar engine failure two years ago when another fan blade broke due to metal fatigue, the manufacturer recommended periodic tests to spot signs of fatigue after the engines reach a certain number of takeoffs and landings.

In August, the FAA began work to make those inspections mandatory. On Wednesday, the agency said that directive will be issued within two weeks.

"I think there should have been a more urgent order," said former NTSB chair Mark Rosenker. 

Airlines will have six to 18 months to do inspections. Many have already started.

"I am disappointed," Rosenker said. "They've been looking at this since August and it would seem to me after we have a fatal accident, you think they'd be ready to say something and maybe modify it from six months to perhaps 90 days."

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave was appointed CBS News Transportation Correspondent in September 2015 and is based in Washington, D.C.