Cracks were reportedly found on 13 out of 150 Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG) planes operated by Korea’s airlines, prompting the Korean government to ban the operation of all the 737 models. Korean Air, and Jeju Air and other low-cost carriers (LCC) which are operating Boeing’s 737NG jets are likely to be financially affected.
Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced on Nov. 11 that it inspected as many as 100 B737NG jets, 79 of which had accumulated more than 20,000 flight cycles and 21 within 20,000 flight cycles, and found cracks in 13 of them. These cracks were found on five B737NG planes operated by Korean Air, three by Jin Air, three by Jeju Air, and two by Eastar Jet.
The Ministry has set out to inspect the 737NG models since Oct. 10 and ordered the airlines to ground the cracked jets one after another. “We have reported the cracking issues to Boeing, the producer of 737NG, so as to get technical reviews and advice,” said a ministry official.
The Korean authority’s decision to carry out urgent inspection came after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) on Oct. 4 for the B737NG with cracks on its pickle forks, key elements which attach the plane’s body to its wing structure. Under the guidance of the FAA, the world’s biggest plane maker inspected its 1,139 B737NG planes that had completed more than 30,000 flight cycles, only to find cracks on 53 planes and to ground them immediately.
Boeing’s emergency repair team who entered Korea at the end of last month is working to replace the cracked parts of the planes. The ministry quoted Boeing officials as saying, “It will take about two weeks to fix a plane, so Boeing will be able to complete repair of all the 13 planes by early next January.” The authority plans to finish probing the remaining 50 planes by Nov. 25, and to inspect again B737NF models which were found to have no problems.
With growing concerns about the defects in B737NG planes, domestic budget carriers which are operating the planes in question will unavoidably face operational disruption. In particular, repairing the cracks will take much time, during which the defected planes should be grounded, which will, in turn, cause disruption in their flight schedule.