SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

April 9, 2011

Boeing 737s around the world face new scrutiny

(Continued)

PHOENIX —

The inspections are high-tech and labor-intensive.

Mechanics using a device that sends magnetic signals through metal to detect unseen cracks will scan about 50 feet of the twin metal seams running along the top of each airplane. The task takes two experts in aircraft service about eight hours. Repairs on any fatigue cracks will take a day or two at most. The checks will have to be repeated every 500 flights.

Boeing redesigned the lap joint on 737s in the early 1990s and thought airlines wouldn't need to inspect them closely until 60,000 flights. That was a mistake, a top Boeing engineer acknowledged this week, and the company was surprised by the failure of the 15-year-old Southwest jet that had flown fewer than 40,000 flights.

Indeed, Continental and Alaska Airlines are inspecting airplanes that are years from the new FAA threshold as an extra precaution, the companies told The Associated Press.

Continental, now merged with United Airlines, has 32 of the 737s in question, none with more than 30,000 cycles that would make them subject to the immediate inspection order. Nonetheless, the twin joints that hold the skin together along the top of the airplane will be inspected as they come due for major maintenance in the coming 18 to 24 months.

The first Boeing 737 entered commercial service in 1968, and 6,725 have been delivered since then. Very few of the early models, with their distinctive cigar-shaped engines, are still flying.

A 737-200 model flying for Aloha Airlines in 1988 had one of the most spectacular aviation incidents in modern history when its roof ripped off while flying from Hilo to Honolulu. A flight attendant was sucked out of the plane and plunged to her death, and dozens of passengers were injured.

That tragedy was blamed on the failure of the same type of metal joint that forced Southwest Airlines Flight 812 to make an emergency landing near Yuma, Ariz.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The Nation

AP Video
Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel David Perdue Wins Georgia GOP Senate Runoff 98-Year-Old Woman Left in Parked Truck Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire Flight to Tel Aviv From US Diverted to Paris AP Review: Amazon Fire Adds Spark to Smartphones Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Raw: Massive Fire Burns in North Dakota Town Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball
NDN Video
CDC Director Warns Of A World Where Antibiotics No Longer Work Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed 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