BY CHARLIE MCKEAGUE
ANCHOR JIM FLINK
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“More cracks have been found on Southwest Airlines planes. Southwest says inspections of its 737 turned up five planes with cracks.” (HLN)
Big questions about aging Boeing 737’s. According to Bloomberg - airlines often fly 737 jets that are 20 years old – or older.
On CNBC, an analyst explains how popular the aircraft is in the industry - and why this finding is front and center.
“Since they were introduced in the late 60’s Boeing has sold more than 6000 of these 737’s. … Keep in mind that’s the workhorse of the industry. It’s what Southwest flies. It’s what Ryan Air flies over in Europe. A lot of airlines fly this airplane. So the future of the 737 is in focus.”
The scrutiny comes after a five-foot hole opened in the fuselage of an in-flight Southwest jet last week.
On CBS, John Goglia, a former board member for the National Transportation Safety Board – blames the Federal Aviation Administration for its lack of regulation on aircraft maintenance. He says its system of fining airlines – doesn’t work.
“I don’t know if there has ever been a study done by the FAA or anybody else that can correlate the fines to improving safety.”
As an example - CBS cites a $10.5 million fine on Southwest in 2007 - which the airline got reduced to $7.5 million.
And former chairman of the House Transportation Committee agrees – noting the fines are too small.
“There is very little incentive if the airline doesn’t feel the pain of the fine. The ultimate victim is safety.”
CNN is also talking 737’s -- and explains -- it’s not necessarily the age of the plane that matters -- but how many takeoffs and landings it’s had.
“When a plane takes off this is basically what happens to the fuselage. It gets pressurized. When you land, the pressure comes out. Now that is wearing on the structure of the plane.”
“Boeing says eventually 570 planes with the same design will need a closer look. The company had anticipated that the skin and joints would not need special scrutiny until it reached 60,000 takeoffs and landings. But the plane that was damaged Friday had only 39,000.”
But it’s not all bad news for Boeing. Back on CNBC a market analyst believes the small tear was actually a blessing in disguise for the company. He says airline companies will consider upgrading their fleets to newer jets – from Boeing of course.
“You have to remember that if you know this a potential problem it is pretty easy to inspect and find out if you have that problem. Then if you have that problem it is pretty easy for the airlines to repair it. So, I think this is an issue we will forget about in entirety in a couple weeks. … I think the airlines are looking to newer for fuel efficient planes.”
But Daily Finance is less optimistic -- and poses the question -- can Boeing still make planes? Writer Douglas McIntyre points out - the company can’t really afford many more setbacks.
“Its 787 Dreamliner is now years late. This has cost the airlines that ordered the plane untold millions of dollars in fuel costs. … Boeing has also been late a year late in its release of a new version of the 747... Industry analysts say that this has cost Boeing $1 billion, and given rival Airbus a head start...”
So far 700 Southwest flights have been canceled due to the safety concerns. One plane was forced to emergency land – and another was diverted. Both Boeing and Southwest stock shares took hits Friday – but have started rebounding.
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