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FAA Initiates New Inquiry Into 737 Safety

March 15, 2020
An in-flight incident involving loss of cabin pressure reportedly led to discovery of a crack in the fuselage "skin".

The Federal Aviation Administration is launching a new probe into Boeing Co.'s 737 Next-Generation commercial airplane series, following an incident on a March 9 Southwest Airlines flight. On the flight from Boise, Idaho, to Las Vegas, the 737 aircraft experienced a gradual loss of cabin pressure. The jet landed without incident or injury to the passengers.

“The aircraft was taken out of service and is currently in maintenance receiving repairs,” according to a Southwest Airlines statement.

Published reports indicate FAA inspectors found a 12-in. crack in the fuselage "skin", in an area of the aircraft that requires inspections after every 1,500 flights.

Southwest Airlines is the world's largest operator of 737 aircraft, including nearly 700 of the NG model. The NG is the third version of the 737 series, the one that preceded the current 737 MAX model.

Late last year the FAA proposed fines exceeding $3.9 million for Boeing in a case involving defective "slat tracks" installed on the Boeing 737-NG, a problem that emerged in June 2019 when the jet builder issued a service bulletin to 737 Next-Generation operators, concerning cracks in a component that attaches the jet's fuselage to the wing structure.

About 2,000 aircraft were inspected in that instance, and an estimated 5% of all 737 NGs were found to have been affected. Southwest idled three aircraft following those inspections.

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