Boeing: inspect your aircraft for cracks

Airlines told to look for cracks after 30,000 take-off and landing cycles

Engineers at Boeing have radically changed their estimate of when Boeing 737s need to be inspected for cracks in their aluminium skin and “lap joints”, from around 60,000 take-off and landing cycles to just 39,000. The change comes after the fuselage rupture incident on a Southwest Airlines flight last week. Consequently, the aircraft manufacturer has issued an advisory stating that operators should inspect the planes’ surfaces for cracks after only 30,000 cycles. Until the exact cause of the incident is found, the Federal Aviation Administration in the US has ordered airlines to repeat inspections as frequently as every 500 cycles.
The 737 series is the best-selling jet airliner in history. According to Boeing, the advisory affects 175 aircraft worldwide. Eventually, a total of 570 planes will need inspections once they near 30,000 take-off and landing cycles. Boeing engineers told reporters that earlier they had anticipated that cracks on the lower row of fastener holes on the skin panels could be a problem in the 737, but believed they would appear much later in the life of the aircraft.