SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

April 9, 2011

Boeing 737s around the world face new scrutiny

PHOENIX — A terrifying flight emergency caused by a fuselage hole 34,000 feet over the Arizona desert is focusing attention on the hundreds of older-model 737s around the world that could be similarly vulnerable.

A 5-foot section of the passenger cabin roof of a 15-year-old Boeing 737-300 tore off April 1, forcing the Southwest Airlines flight to make an emergency landing.

None of the 118 people aboard was seriously injured, but light-headed passengers were banged around the cabin and had to quickly put on overhead oxygen masks as pilots made a rapid descent.

The planes will now be subjected to repeated examinations as the problem revealed by tiny, hard-to-find stress fractures in the aluminum skin resonates through the world's 737 fleet for years to come.

The Boeing 737 is workhorse of international aviation. Airlines and governments are giving the planes a closer look and taking swift action.

Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and others ordered airlines to beef up inspections. Scandinavian airline SAS is performing similar checks on some of its 737s. Qantas Airlines in Australia is checking four of its planes and Air New Zealand is looking at 15. Airlines said the inspections have not disrupted air travel.

Southwest and Continental Airlines have the most planes on the list of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s prone to the fuselage ruptures, but a large number of the planes are owned by overseas carriers. UTAir in Russia, Garuda Airlines in Indonesia, Air New Zealand and three major carriers in China are among the biggest. Alaska Airlines has 17.

Southwest finished inspecting all of its affected planes by Tuesday. They found five that had cracks in the same lap joint that tore open during last week's flight, and were working with Boeing to make repairs. Alaska Airlines is going a step beyond a Federal Aviation Administration directive this week that ordered inspections when the planes reach a 30,000 takeoffs and landings; the airline will inspect all its planes in the coming weeks.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The Nation

AP Video
Weather Gives Washington Firefighters Hope Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message $5M Bond Set for Teens in Homeless Killings New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Obama Calls for Immediate Access to Crash Site Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism Native American Teens Get Taste of College Legendary Actor James Garner Dies Raw: Eric Garner's Wife Collapses at Rally in NY Raw: Texas Gov. Rick Perry Visits Iowa
NDN Video
Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon Spectacular lightning storm hits London Malaysian Flight Victim Was South Florida Grad Rory McIlroy on pace to break British Open records Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels Lowes employees repair Vietnam vet's wheelchair Widow of Staten Island man who died after NYPD takedown says he was unjustifiably targeted