YUMA, AZ (AP)-The Federal Aviation Administration said it will order inspections of all early model 737 planes starting Tuesday, after a large hole appeared in a Southwest Airlines jet last week. The FAA said it will issue the directive at 2 p.m. Pacific time.
Boeing said Monday it is also preparing a service bulletin for lap-joint inspections on certain 737-300/400/500 airplanes.
The FAA's order applies to approximately 175 aircraft worldwide, 80 of which are registered in the United States. Most of those planes belong to Southwest, said the FAA.
The "repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage" will focus on "specific areas of the aircraft fuselage" on planes that have more than 30,000 flight cycles. Inspections will be repeated at regular intervals.
Boeing and National Transportation Safety Administration inspectors are currently conducting non-destructive testing of both lap joints on the Southwest Boeing 737-300 that made an emergency landing in Yuma, Arizona Friday, after a 5-foot-long hole tore open in the passenger cabin roof area shortly after takeoff, said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt.
Three more Southwest Airlines jetliners were later found to have small, subsurface cracks that are similar to the cracks suspected of playing a role in the fuselage tear of the Boeing 737-300.