No sooner had Boeing conceded that there were imperfections in its safety audit of the 737 MAX, than the company is facing yet another 737-related issue -- hairline cracks in Boeing’s 737NG aircraft.
As ConsumerAffairs reported in early October, Boeing’s latest round of headaches began with Brazilian carrier Gol Transportes Aéreos grounded all 11 of its 737NG planes. Stateside, Southwest Airlines reported it grounded two of the planes, noting that it didn’t find any issues in the “vast majority” of planes.
Now there’s news that Australian carrier Qantas has discovered the same cracks in three of the 33 aircraft it inspected. Those planes were immediately pulled from service and sent out for repairs.
“We would never fly an aircraft that wasn’t safe,” said Andrew David, Qantas Domestic’s CEO. “Even where these hairline cracks are present they’re not an immediate risk, which is clear from the fact [that] the checks were not required for at least seven months.”
Not everyone is in agreement
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) took exception with David’s position. It urged Qantas to ground its entire 737 fleet until checks were complete.
"These aircraft should be kept safe on the ground until urgent inspections are completed," the ALAEA’s Steve Purvinas said in a statement. Purvinas primary reason behind his call for a total grounding started with Boeing’s original thinking that the cracks were occurring on aircraft with over 35,000 landings. However, in Qantas’ situation, the cracks were found on aircraft with under 27,000 landings -- a serious enough distinction that, in Purvinas’ estimation, warrants a system-wide grounding. However, Qantas’ David thinks Purvinas is off-base.
“Unfortunately, there were some irresponsible comments from one engineering union yesterday, which completely misrepresented the facts. Those comments were especially disappointing given the fantastic job our engineers have done to inspect these aircraft well ahead of schedule, and the priority they give to safety every day of the week,” David said.
What does Boeing have to say?
In comments to CBSNews, a Boeing spokesperson said the company "regrets the impact" the issue was having on its customers and was "working around the clock" to fix the problem.
"Boeing is actively working with customers that have airplanes in their fleets with inspection findings to develop a repair plan, and to provide parts and technical support as necessary.”
Are you booked on a 737NG?
The “NG” in Boeing’s 737NG name stands for “Next Generation,” and as of May 31, 2019, more than 7,000 aircraft of that model have been delivered to airlines around the world. Primary users of the 737NG include Qantas, Gol Transportes Aéreos, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Ryan Air, and United Airlines.
If a traveler is concerned about whether they’ll be on one of the potentially affected aircraft, they can always go to FlightAware, type in the flight number, and the “aircraft type” will be listed under “flight information.” The airline’s help desk can also provide pertinent information.