Two Planes Show Problem That May Have Led To China Airlines
For the second time in this week, the Federal Aviation
Administration ordered airlines flying Next-Generation 737s to
inspect those planes' leading edge slat tracks for evidence of a
potentially serious condition.
As ANN reported earlier this
week, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive
ordering eight US carriers to inspect their newer Boeing 737 wings
for loose or missing parts in response to a fire that erupted on a
China Airlines jet last week. All 165 people onboard the 737
escaped before fire enveloped the aircraft, destroying it.
Carriers immediately set about inspecting their 737 fleets for
signs of loose or missing parts in the slat downstop assembly,
which limits how far the leading edge slats deploy during takeoff
and landing operations. The slats are used to increase the wing's
surface area during low-speed maneuvering.
The FAA issued a second AD Tuesday,
reducing the deadline for those inspections to be completed from 24
days to 10, after two planes showed signs of the same problem
thought to be the culprit behind the August 20 China Airlines
incident at Okinawa's Naha Airport.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr told The Associated Press in both cases,
inspections revealed parts were missing from the downstop assembly
and where lying loose in the housing separating the slat assembly
from the wing fuel tanks. In one of those cases, Dorr added, the
housing wall was damaged from the loose parts abrading against
Dorr said carriers may either conduct the detailed inspections
outlined in the original AD, or can rely on borescope inspections
to expedite the process. Inspectors must verify all necessary parts
are in place, paying particular attention to a washer used to hold
the nut on the downstop assembly bolt.
As long as no damage is found, carriers may take the full 24
days to retighten the bolt assembly to specs.
The Airworthiness Directive applies to 783 US-registered
737-600, -700, -800, -900, and -900ER models. The first planes of
the type -- termed the "Next Generation" 737 Family by Boeing --
flew in 1998, when the -700 entered service with Southwest
Some 2,287 aircraft of the type are in service throughout the
world... and it's likely the AD will be applied to the worldwide
fleet. Many carriers around the globe -- including China Airlines
-- have started inspection programs of their own.