Southwest Airlines’ ambitious fleetwide implementation of required navigation performance (RNP) operations is making slow progress. Since initiating flights in January using the precision approach procedures to save track miles and fuel, the airline’s use of RNP represents just 1 percent of its daily operations, said Capt. David Newton, Southwest senior manager of airspace.
The Southwest Airlines 737-300 that lost some fuselage skin last month must surely have provided its occupants with some horribly tense minutes, but the airplane made it safely back to terra firma.
Misshapen and misaligned rivet holes in parts of the fuselage removed from a Southwest Airlines 737-300 has lent more credence to theories that a manufacturing flaw led to the eventual failure of the lap joint during an April 1 accident in which a five-foot-long tear developed in the roof of the airplane while en route from Phoenix to Sacramento. A rapid depressurization occurred at 34,000 feet, forcing the crew to divert to Yuma, Ariz.
The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced new airline passenger protections that will extend the ban on ramp delays to international flights and, crucially for regional airlines, require carriers to coordinate so-called ramp delay contingency plans with small and non-hub airports.
Operators of certain Boeing 737 Classics will need to perform eddy current inspections on parts of their fuselages every 500 flight cycles, forcing interruptions to their service at much more frequent intervals than anyone had originally envisioned.
Now that the FAA issued an emergency AD to address fatigue cracking in some 175 Boeing 737 Classics, the question arises: how could have Boeing so wildly miscalculated the interval at which inspections of this particular area of fuselage should occur?
Southwest Airlines returned to its regular schedule today after finishing inspections on 77 Boeing 737-300s for fatigue cracking. The airline found “minor” subsurface cracking on two more airplanes yesterday, bringing the total to five airplanes that must remain out of service until Boeing recommends appropriate repairs and Southwest completes them.
The FAA plans to issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) tomorrow that will require operators of specific early Boeing 737 models to conduct initial and repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage, the agency announced this afternoon.
Boeing plans to issue a Service Bulletin to describe inspection techniques for Boeing 737s similar to the Southwest Airlines 737-300 whose fuselage skin ruptured while on a scheduled flight from Phoenix to Sacramento on April 1. Flight 812 diverted to Yuma, Ariz., for an emergency landing at 5:07 p.m. after a hole developed in the top of fuselage.
Southwest Airlines has grounded 79 (not 81 as was previously reported) of its Boeing 737s as it began working with Boeing and the NTSB to determine the cause of a “depressurization event” during a flight from Phoenix to Sacramento on Friday afternoon. The airplane diverted to Yuma, Ariz., for an emergency landing at 5:07 p.m. local time after a hole developed in the top of fuselage.