Airlines have inspected 810 older Boeing 737NGs for cracked fuselage parts and turned up issues on 38 aircraft as of Oct. 9, the company said, adding it is working with customers to develop plans and procure parts for aircraft with discrepancies.
Boeing is analyzing its customers’ inspection findings and is “actively working” with those that have airliners with inspection issues to develop repair plans and provide parts and technical support as necessary, a spokesperson said.
Boeing alerted 737-600/-700/-800/-900/-900ER (737NG) operators on Sept. 27 that it had found, and informed the FAA about cracking on the “left- and right-hand side outboard chords of the Station 663 frame fitting and failsafe straps” on three -800s. Those aircraft were undergoing passenger-to-freighter conversions and had accumulated 35,587-37,329 flight cycles.
FAA followed up Boeing’s notice and issued an airworthiness directive (AD) that took effect Oct. 3 for high-time models.
That AD requires aircraft with 30,000 cycles to be inspected within seven days. Inspections within 1,000 cycles are required for aircraft with 22,600 cycles.
Southwest Airlines “completed all inspections of the ‘pickle forks’ on high-cycle 737NG aircraft (with 30,000-plus cycles) last weekend,” in advance of the Oct. 10 deadline. “We did not find abnormalities on the vast majority of our initial inspections but did identify signs of pickle-fork cracking on two aircraft,” reported a Southwest spokesperson.
The carrier reported its findings to the FAA and Boeing and removed the aircraft “until the issues have been fully resolved. Our technical operations team is now focused on completing inspections on the remaining portion of the 737NG fleet covered by the AD and will follow by inspecting all NG aircraft in the Southwest fleet,” the spokesperson said.
Alaska Airlines reports all 26 of its AD-covered aircraft were inspected, and none had cracks.
None of American Airlines’ -800 fleet falls into the seven-day inspection requirement. American’s oldest -800, which was delivered in 1999, only has around 25,000 cycles,” said a spokeswoman. Because American’s -800 fleet averages 1,200-1,500 cycles per year, it anticipates about 80 of the aircraft “will require the inspection in the next eight months per the 22,600- and 29,999-cycle requirement,” she explained, adding that these inspections will not affect operations.
None of United Airlines’ 737NGs has more than 30,000 cycles, either. “Roughly 80 of our aircraft fall between 22,600 and 29,999 cycles” and will be inspected at the appropriate times, according to a United spokesperson.