Inspections Continue

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 3:14pm

Inspectors are taking a closer look at hundreds of 737s after Southwest scare.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking no chances following last week's scare when a Southwest 737-300 made an emergency landing after a section of the plane's fuselage ripped open.

Federal aviation officials ordered all airlines to perform emergency inspections of certain older 737 planes after Southwest inspections of its older 737-300s found more signs of metal fatigue in five of its planes.

On display Tuesday at a briefing was part of the torn fuselage that caused a rapid drop in cabin pressure on the Southwest flight.

"We do not expect aircraft in service today to rapidly decompress in flight and to have a situation where the airplane fuselage is ripping open," said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

The NTSB says the tear is along a lap joint in the plane's skin.

Evidence of metal fatigue is now being examined at a lab in Washington.

The aircraft was 15 years old, not considered an aging aircraft in the industry.

Investigators say they will be looking at all possibilities, including wear and tear on planes that make shorter trips.

"I think part of this is not only inspecting the planes but also looking at how often the planes are used, how often they take off, how often they land," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The inspection affects 175 planes worldwide; 80 here in the United States.

The majority of those are owned by Southwest.

Southwest is making repairs on the planes that showed signs of metal fatigue.

The other 737s that were cleared of any problems have been returned to service.

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