Qantas has officially confirmed that the airline is prematurely checking 33 Boeing 737 NG aircraft for cracks in the suspension system, nicknamed pickle forks, which connects fuselage with wings. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for all Boeing 737 NG aircraft on October 3, 2019. A week later, reports emerged that over 30 aircraft around the world, including 737s in Southwest Airlines (LUV) and GOL Linhas Aéreas’ fleets, were affected by pickle fork cracks so far.
Meanwhile, Qantas says that it will complete inspections on their potentially-damaged aircraft by November 1, 2019, something that the airline is doing “months ahead of schedule”.
“We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so. Even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft,” the airline’s press release states.
On October 30, 2019, Qantas found one Boeing 737 with cracks in the suspension system. The aircraft in question has 27,000 flight cycles. The carrier removed the 737 NG from service to repair the issues.
Further pickle fork crack issues
On the same day when Qantas found cracks in one of its aircraft, South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport confirmed that nine out of 42 aircraft that have accumulated over 30,000 flight cycles have been withdrawn from active service in the country due to cracks in their pickle forks. These include Boeing 737 NG aircraft owned by Korean Air, Jin Air and Jeju Air.
In India, SpiceJet checked 16 jets with over 30,000 flight cycles and none showcased signs of cracks in the suspension system, reports Livemint.
Southwest has found pickle fork cracks on three of its aircraft so far, Reuters reports.
Boeing will conduct additional assessments to determine why aircraft with less than 22,600 cycles could show pickle fork cracks, as well as potential implications of these findings. “Depending on the results of these assessments, additional inspections or repairs may be required”.