Boeing’s problems go on and on: in the midst of the crisis surrounding the ill-fated 737 max, the 737 NG predecessor model is now also causing major problems.
Following the discovery of hairline cracks in three aircraft of this type, the australian airline qantas is inspecting several aircraft of the same design. The U.S. Federal aviation administration (FAA) had already ordered an urgent special inspection at the beginning of the month, as a result of which a number of 737 ngs were taken out of service. But probably the problem has a much bigger dimension than assumed so far.
On thursday, it was initially only a matter of a crack: "this machine has been taken out of service for repairs," a qantas spokesman had told dpa. Then on friday, the company announced that it had already discovered hairline cracks in three boeing 737 NG aircraft. A total of 33 passenger aircraft of this type are now to be inspected at the australian airline alone. What is explosive is that these are probably jets of a type for which the FAA had not previously required rapid inspections. Because the planes have more than 22.600 takeoffs and landings behind it, the FAA initially only referred to those with more than 30.000.
On friday, however, the all-clear was given by the vacation airlines tuifly and sunexpress. "We ran all checks according to the manufacturer’s specifications and also checked some aircraft as a precaution," said a tui spokesman in hanover on friday. "We have not found any abnormalities." Lufthansa’s subsidiary sunexpress, which like tuifly relies on this type of aircraft for short- and medium-haul flights, had to inspect 20 jets. But there have been no abnormalities or even structural cracks, a spokeswoman said.
Europe’s rude low-cost carrier ryanair, whose fleet consists entirely of 737-NG 737-800 aircraft, appeared relaxed despite the news from australia. "Ryanair continues to inspect its aircraft in accordance with airworthiness directives and does not anticipate any impact on our connections or fleet availability," the airline said in response to a query.
The risk of cracks exists in key components used to attach the wings to the aircraft fuselage. In aviation jargon, the parts are called "pickle forks" because they resemble cucumber forks. Under heavy load, the 737 ngs can apparently wear out faster than expected. Boeing has so far only stated that it is actively supporting customers in investigating the 737 NG. All operators had been given detailed instructions, and they were also involved in any necessary repairs.
The australian licensed aircraft engineers association appealed to the airline to ground all 77 aircraft of this type.
When asked, an FAA spokeswoman pointed out that the agency had already ordered inspections for newer 737 ngs with fewer takeoffs and landings at the beginning of october. However, only older aircraft with particularly high loads had to be checked for cracks within seven days. This should not change for the time being. As a result of the urgent special inspection, cracks were found in about five percent of the examined jets. They have to be repaired and are not allowed to take off for the time being.
The boeing 737 NG is the predecessor model of the 737 max. The 737-max models have been grounded since mid march because of two crashes with a total of 346 fatalities. A faulty control program at boeing is considered to be a decisive cause of the accident. Whether and when the planes were allowed to take off again depends on international regulatory authorities and is currently unclear.
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