FAA Requires Boeing 737 Inspections

Southwest Boeing 737


The Federal Aviation Administration will issue an airworthiness directive today at 5pm EST that will require US airlines that operate early Boeing 737 models to conduct, "initial and repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage."

The directive will require airlines flying the Boeing 737 -300, -400 and -500 models that have over 30,000 flight cycles – or times a plane takes off and lands – to be inspected for cracks like those found in a Southwest Airlines flight 812, where a 5 foot gash opened up in the fuselage shortly after takeoff last Friday.

As of 10am EST today, Southwest Airlines had completed inspections on all the aircraft and has fully resumed normal operations. Cracks, like those found on flight 812, were found on five additional Southwest 737s and "will remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and those repairs have been completed," according to Southwest.

Boeing is working with their airline customers and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the cracks. "Boeing has asked operators of certain 737-300/-400/-500 airplanes at or above 30,000 flight cycles to inspect certain lap joints. If inspections reveal cracks, operators should contact Boeing for repair instructions and complete the repair," Boeing said in a public statement. Lap joints are where two pieces of metal overlap.

According to seattlepi.com, Boeing engineers knew about the possibility of the Boeing 737 fuselage cracking at the lap-joint, but didn't think it would happen so soon. The aircraft involved with Southwest Airlines flight 812 had only 40,000 cycles and Boeing wasn't planning to start inspecting for this sort of damage until around 60,000 cycles.

"Safety is our number one priority," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. "Last Friday's incident was very serious and could result in additional action depending on the outcome of the investigation."

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