Airlines step up checks on Boeing planes after finding cracks

Airlines step up checks on Boeing planes after finding cracks
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Qantas Airways and Southwest Airlines have found structural cracks in some Boeing 737 NG planes, Reuters reported Wednesday. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month ordered inspections for cracks in NG planes' wing supports for aircrafts with more than 30,000 take-off and landing cycles. 

Reuters reported, however, that Qantas and Southwest discovered the issue in planes with fewer than 30,000 cycles. 

Qantas told the wire service that it discovered a crack in a plane with fewer than 27,000 cycles. That plane has been reportedly removed for repairs. A source with knowledge told the wire service that cracks were found in a second aircraft with almost 27,500 cycles. 

A different source with knowledge told Reuters that Southwest found cracks in a plane with about 28,500 cycles. 

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A Southwest spokesman told Reuters that the company had removed three jets for "pickle fork" repairs, but did not confirm how many cycles the planes had been through. The spokesman told Reuters that the company is expanding checks to all of its 737 NG planes. 

The FAA has ordered that jets with between 22,600 and 29,999 cycles be inspected within its next 1,000 cycles, which could take months, according to Reuters. 

"Safety and quality are Boeing’s top priorities," a Boeing spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. "Boeing notified the FAA of this issue and has been actively engaged with our 737NG customers globally in a plan to support the required inspections."

"Boeing regrets the impact this issue is having on our 737NG customers worldwide and we are working around the clock to provide the support needed to return all airplanes to service as soon as possible," the spokesperson added. "Just over 1,000 airplanes have reached the inspection threshold, with less than 5 percent having findings."

Reuters also reported that the South Korean transport ministry has grounded nine 737 NGs for cracks, but that each of these planes had more than 30,000 cycles. 

The Boeing NGs are a predecessor to Boeing's grounded 737 Max planes. One Max aircraft crashed last year and another crashed this year, killing a total of 346 people.