Since the fatal Southwest Airline accident the FAA is conducting a new review of jetliner engines. The enhanced hazard assessments revealed by acting Federal Aviation Administration chief Daniel Elwell, focus on potential threats from structural failures of front engine covers, called cowlings. Mid-air breakups of such ancillary parts typically haven’t been considered in safety analyses or mandatory certification standards for modern jet engines.

But, in the wake of the highly unusual engine failure that destroyed a cowling and killed a Southwest passenger in April, Mr. Elwell said the agency for the first time is looking into the extent of danger posed by precisely such rare events.

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