The cracks are on what is known as a “pickle fork,” a part of the fuselage that helps to attach the wings to the aircraft. The problem was discovered when some used passenger jets were being stripped down for conversion to freighter jets, according to a person familiar with the problem. Boeing notified the FAA, which then ordered the inspections.
There are about 6,800 of the 737 NG jets already in service around the world. It is not clear how many need immediate inspections.
Boeing’s statement suggests the fix for the NG planes is more straightforward than the solution to get the 737 Max back in the air. But it could not give a time frame for how long those planes will be grounded.
“Safety and quality are Boeing’s top priorities. Boeing regrets the impact this issue is having on our customers worldwide,” said the aircraft maker. “Boeing is actively working with customers … to develop a repair plan, and to provide parts and technical support as necessary. We are working around the clock to provide the support needed to return all airplanes to service as soon as possible.”
The FAA order said airlines had a week to inspect planes that have made more than 30,000 flights. They have a year to inspect jets with at least 22,600 flights. Even planes with fewer flights than that must be inspected once they have 1,000 additional flights going forward from the Oct 3 order date. A plane used by a major airline can have 1,200 to 1,500 flights during the course of a year.