The U.S. FAA issues an emergency directive that will require operators of specific early Boeing 737 models to conduct initial and repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage. This action will initially apply to a total of approximately 175 aircraft worldwide, 80 of which are U.S.-registered aircraft. Most of the aircraft in the U.S. are operated by Southwest Airlines.
The FAA airworthiness directive will require initial inspections using electromagnetic, or eddy-current, technology in specific areas of the aircraft fuselage on certain Boeing 737 aircraft in the -300, -400 and -500 series that have accumulated more than 30,000 flight cycles. It will then require repetitive inspections at regular intervals.
In November 2010, the FAA published a rule designed specifically to address widespread fatigue damage in aging aircraft. The rule requires aircraft manufacturers to establish a number of flight cycles or hours a plane can operate and be free from fatigue damage. The rule requires aircraft manufacturers to incorporate the limits into their maintenance programs.
- FAA rule Aging Airplane Program: Widespread Fatigue Damage (15 Nov 2010)
- FAA press release Aging Airplane Program (12 Nov 2010)
- FAA emergency AD (to be published 5 April 2011)