Planes Get Tired Too: Few Southwest Flights Still Grounded

As of Monday afternoon, nearly 90 percent of the 79 Boeing 737-300 aircraft had been inspected, according to Southwest Airlines. Although a few Southwest flights remain grounded, the airline is expected to have completed all inspections on the fleet by Tuesday, and will resume full operation said the airline.

After initiating a voluntary inspection over the weekend, the airline completed inspection on 67 aircraft and returned 64 of them to service. The remaining three planes were found to have subsurface cracks and will be out of service until Boeing recommends an appropriate repair. 

The Federal Aviation Administration said late Monday, that they will issue an emergency order on Tuesday for airlines[not exclusive to Southwest],  to have the Boeing 737-500 and other older 737 models inspected for metal fatigue.  
 
“The FAA has comprehensive programs in place to protect commercial aircraft from structural damage as they age,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “This action is designed to detect cracking in a specific part of the aircraft that cannot be spotted with visual inspection.”

Such safety measures are being taken as a result of the fuselage rupture on a 118 passenger Southwest flight last week.  The aircraft made an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Ariz. after a 5-foot hole appeared in the ceiling of the plane while in mid-air. No passengers were hurt however some did pass out due to the sudden loss in cabin pressure, according to reports.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Last Friday’s incident was very serious and could result in additional action depending on the outcome of the investigation.”

 For the latest information, Southwest encourages customers to check www.southwest.com for updates on specific flights.