Qantas 737-800. Source: Qantas

Qantas has announced it will inspect 33 of it’s 737NG aircraft by the end of the week after a structural crack was found in a 737NG during a scheduled inspection.

The inspection came after the FAA ordered inspections for pickle fork cracks on 737NGs within 7 days for those aircraft that have operated more than 30 000 cycles. For aircraft that have flown more than 22 600 cycles the FAA have ordered checks within the next 1000 flights, which works out to approximately 7 months for Qantas. The aircraft Qantas found the crack on has flown just less than 27 000 cycles. The aircraft has been grounded while Qantas undertakes repairs.

Qantas told ABC News Australia, “We have found one example of cracking in an aircraft with just under 27,000 cycles (take-offs and landings), and this aircraft has been removed from service for repair. None of Qantas’ 737s have reached the 30,000 cycle mark. However, out of an abundance of caution, we will have inspected 33 aircraft with more than 22,600 cycles by the end of the week rather than the seven months required. Qantas would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so. Detailed analysis by Boeing shows that even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft, as indicated by the timeframe given by regulators to perform the checks.”

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) has said that the entire Qantas 737 fleet should be grounded after a second aircraft was found with a crack overnight.

The head of the ALAEA, Steven Purvinas, told ABC, “These aircraft should not be flying. The area where the crack is takes the load off the wing and all the fuel it carries. As long as Qantas is unaware which aircraft do or don’t have cracks, they should ground the entire fleet until they know which are safe to fly.”

Chris Snook, head of Qantas engineering told ABC, “These are completely irresponsible comments. We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so.

Mr Purvinas said the checks take about 1 hour to carry out.

Qantas has 75 737NG aircraft in it’s fleet, which are used mainly on it’s domestic routes, plus some services to New Zealand, Indonesia and Fiji. Virgin Australia has checked all 19 of it’s 737NG aircraft meeting the 22 600 cycle threshold and found no cracks.

Sources: Fairfax Media and ABC News Australia

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