The Federal Aviation Administration is ordering inspections of the wing slats on all newer Boeing 737 jetliners based on findings during the investigation of a Taiwanese jetliner that caught fire after landing on the Okinawa Runway in Japan last week. The FAA says the move was prompted by the fire in Japan and one other incident.
Investigators found a bolt had pierced the fuel tank of the jetliner after it landed in Japan, forcing all 165 passengers to evacuate the plane seconds before it exploded.
“It’s a call for inspection. Basically everyone’s got to go out and look at their airplanes and figure out what’s going on here,” says Jim Proulx, communications/media relations for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
According to Proulx, “the bolt assembly fell out of place and pushed through the fuel tank.” A fuel leak through that hole likely caused the fire on the China Airlines Boeing 737-800, according to Associated Press reports.
The FAA’s orders apply to the owners and operators of 783 U.S. planes but will likely be imposed by other countries on the entire worldwide fleet of 2,287 newer 737s. The results of investigations by individual airlines are currently being filtered back to Boeing but Proulx was unable to comment on current findings.
The Emergency Airworthiness Directive from the FAA was sent to all owners and operators of Boeing Model 737-600, -700, -700C, -800, -900 and -900ER series airplanes. In part it states they “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 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.”
View the entire directive here.
Associate Editor Sean Snyder also contributed to this article.