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U.S., European regulators mandate checks on some 737 engines

By David Shepardson and Tim Hepher

By David Shepardson and Tim Hepher

WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) - European and U.S. airline regulators on Friday ordered mandatory inspections within 20 days of aircraft engines similar to one involved in a fatal Southwest Airlines <LUV.N> accident earlier this week.

Engine maker CFM International on Friday recommended the ultrasonic inspections on fan blades that have been used in more than 30,000 cycles, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Administration are making those recommendations into requirements.

A cycle includes one take-off and landing.

The inspections recommended within the next 20 days will affect about 680 engines globally, U.S. regulators said.

Approximately 14,000 CFM56-7B engines are in operation.

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators earlier this week said that a broken fan blade touched off the engine explosion on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 on Tuesday that shattered a window, killing a passenger. It was the first death in a U.S. commercial aviation accident since 2009.

CFM, jointly owned by General Electric Co <GE.N> and France's Safran <SAF.PA>, also recommended inspections by the end of August for fan blades with 20,000 cycles, and inspections of all other fan blades when they reach 20,000 cycles.

After the first inspection, airlines should keep repeating the process every 3,000 cycles, which typically represents about two years in service.

More than 150 have already been inspected.

Inspections recommended by the end of August will affect an additional 2,500 engines.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, David Shepardson; writing by Peter Henderson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)