FAA Orders Emergency Inspection of New Model Boeing 737

In light of the recent China Airlines plane fire in Japan, the Federal Aviation Administration has released an Airworthiness Directive (AD 2007-18-51; Docket No. FAA-2007-29089; Directorate Identifier 2007-NM-214-AD) that orders all U.S. airlines to perform emergency inspections of the new model Boeing 737 to check for loose hardware in slat panels that are extended on the wings to increase lift for take-off and landing.

It is estimated that more than 780 planes registered to U.S. airlines are affected, with about 1,500 in service around the world.

Early reports state that loose hardware appears to have punctured the fuel tank of the China Airlines jet on Aug 20 in Okinawa, Japan. Leaking fuel caused a fire that engulfed and destroyed the airliner. All 165 people aboard escaped to safety.

In the directive, the FAA states they, "have received reports of parts of the main slat track downstop assembly coming off the main slat track. In one case, a nut fell into the slat track housing (referred to as 'slat can') and, during a subsequent slat retraction, the track made contact with the nut, pushing it into the wall of the can and puncturing it. That operator reported finding fuel leaking from the drain hole in the slat track housing at the No. 5 slat track position.

"In another case, an initial investigation revealed that following retraction of the slats after landing on a Model 737-800 airplane, loose parts of the main slat track downstop assembly punctured the slat can, which resulted in a fuel leak and a fire that ultimately destroyed the airplane. Loose or missing parts from the main slat track downstop assemblies, if not detected and corrected, could result in a fuel leak and consequent fire."

To read the directive's entire text, visit http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library%5CrgAD.nsf/0/E8AEEF3D61BB907F862573430015B30A?OpenDocument.

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