Cracks in three more Southwest planes

2011-04-04 21:47

Los Angeles - Engineers have found cracks in three more Southwest Airlines planes after a hole ripped open in an aircraft carrying 123 people, forcing it to make an emergency landing, the US airline said on Monday.

The airline cancelled a further 70 flights, after some 300 were taken off the schedule on Sunday following the mid-air scare on Friday on a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Sacramento, California.

Fifty-seven aircraft have so far been tested and returned to service, Southwest said in an update on inspections on 79 Boeing 737-300 planes in the company's fleet, to address possible "skin fatigue" on ageing airliners.

"Additional inspections have identified three aircraft with the subsurface cracks. Those aircraft will remain out of service until appropriate repairs can be completed," it said.

"The airline continues to inspect aircraft and will put those with no findings back into service," it added, saying the tests were designed to detect "any subsurface fatigue in the skin that is not visible to the eye".

No-one on Flight 812 was seriously hurt when the hole tore open with a loud bang, causing a sudden loss of pressure and triggering passengers to grasp for oxygen masks and frantically text loved ones.

The plane, suffering from a 1.5m by 0.3m gash in its roof, landed without incident at an Arizona military base, where the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is examining the damaged jet.

Inspected on Tuesday

"We did find evidence of widespread cracking across this entire fracture surface," NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told a press briefing broadcast from Yuma via internet on Sunday.

A further NTSB briefing was scheduled for later on Monday.

Southwest said the plane had undergone all necessary Federal Aviation Administration inspections, including the extensive overhaul in March 2010, and was given a routine inspection on Tuesday, according to Fox News.

Southwest's entire fleet of 548 planes is comprised of 737s, including about 170 Boeing 737-300s, the oldest in the fleet.

The airline's planes average 11.2 years of age. Boeing 737-300s were produced from 1984 to 1999.

  • Duke - 2011-04-05 06:19

    We have a lot of those old horse boxes in our services. Wonder who is checking them? BEE'd Air??

      sakkie - 2011-04-05 06:44

      Sho Dude...don't even joke ! I hope our training is on par with the rest of the world !!

      Deon - 2011-04-05 07:05

      @Sakkie, Don't kid yourself !!! Nowhere NEAR the standard as what it should be. If you fly today,you r taking a big risk. Best make sure your affairs are in order.

  • karlkat - 2011-04-05 06:52

    Wonder what SAA, BA South Africa and 1TIME have to say about their fleet of planes of which some of them are much older. Are they all subjected to comprehensive inspections and routine maintenance or is it going to be another case of wait untill something serious happens. It will be appreciated if anyone form our local ail line organisations could answer on this one

      Darius Jordaan - 2011-04-05 08:48

      SAA have one of the best technical support teams. Some other airlines even use their technical services. Airplanes have service schedules that have to be adhered to... worldwide.

      PE_Rob - 2011-04-05 11:54

      SAA only have the latest 737-800's still in service but they are all due to be replaced by Aibus A318 and A319 aircraft by the end of 2013 when the entire SAA fleet will consist of Airbus Aircraft. I wish people would'nt be so damn pessimistic about our national carrier. Being a member of the STAR Alliance means that they need to adhere to the same international standards as other large airlines and are privey to routine inspections.

  • Shaun - 2011-04-05 07:45

    I live in Botswana, and Air Botswana leases a 737 so old when you pull the window blind down it is labelled 727....

      Edith-Ann - 2011-04-05 08:16

      Shaun, thanx for the joke, it's a nice way to start your day at work, seriously funny. :-)

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