Southwest Airlines grounded two Boeing 737 airplanes on Wednesday after finding cracks in a part of the wings. Boeing is still dealing with fallout from two deadly crashes due to technical failures in the last year.
Southwestern Airlines will ground two Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG) airplanes after inspections revealed cracks in a component that holds the wings to the body of the plane.
The airline announced Wednesday that it was pulling the two jets from service until repairs are made.
The two planes belong to a group of older jets that were subject to an emergency inspection ordered by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) last week. The FAA called for the inspection of Boeing 737s, starting with older planes that have made more than 30,000 flights, after Boeing reported finding cracks in some of its planes in China.
Spokesperson for Southwest Airlines Brian Parrish said crews found cracks in 2 out of 200 inspected jets. They reported the findings to Boeing and the FAA.
"We did not find abnormalities on the vast majority of our fleet," the airline said in a statement.
Inspectors found the cracks in a part called the "pickle fork," named for its prongs that extend under the wing of the plane. Until now, industry experts had believed it was not necessary to replace pickle forks.
After discovering cracks in the planes in China last week, the FAA ordered inspections on around 165 US planes within seven days. Checks on a further 1,700 planes that have completed at least 22,600 flights are required before they do another 1,000 flights.
Boeing intends to replace the NG with the Boeing 737 Max. The NG's cracking issue does not apply to the Max. However, the Max remains grounded after two crashes that killed 346 people in the last 12 months.
The airplane manufacturer continues to face problems with the software that caused the crashes. It also faces lawsuits from the families of the crash victims as well as from its own pilots, who claim Boeing "deliberately" misled them about the 737 Max. For now, the new jet remains grounded indefinitely.
All of Southwest Airlines 700+ jets are Boeing 737s, of which 34 are grounded Max planes. American, United, and Delta airlines said that none of their Boeing 737s needed to be checked within the seven-day period.
kp/rc (AP, dpa)