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100 737NGs inspected and 13 grounded

50 more Boeing planes remain to be checked for structural cracks
Nov 12,2019
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From left: Boeing 737NG planes operated by Korean Air and Jin Air are being repaired at Korean Air’s hangar located in Gangseo District, western Seoul, on Monday; inside of a 737NG plane with new parts, colored in green; a so-called pickle fork structure with cracks introduced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Monday. [YONHAP]
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Two-thirds of the 150 Boeing 737NG planes operated by local airlines have been checked for cracks on their suspension systems, and 13 of those have been grounded.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, as of Monday, airlines had inspected 100 737NG planes - including 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900 models - out of a total 150 flown in Korea. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an urgent directive on Oct. 3 mandating plane operators to check 737NG family planes with more than 30,000 flight cycles within 60 days.

The directive had been issued early last month as cracks were found in the pickle fork structure of the plane, which connects the fuselage with the wings. In Korea, the Land Ministry has also mandated these checks.

The ministry said it completed checks on 42 737NG planes with more than 30,000 flight cycles as of Oct. 10 and immediately grounded nine planes found with cracks. By Sunday, it completed checks on 37 737NG planes with between 20,000 and 30,000 flight cycles and grounded four more planes with cracks. Twenty-one 737NGs with fewer than 20,000 flight cycles have also been inspected, but no plane was found with cracks, according to the ministry.

Of a total of 13 planes grounded in Korea, five are operated by Korean Air, three by Korean Air’s Jin Air budget arm, three by Jeju Air and two by Eastar Jet.

For the 13 planes, the ministry said it notified Boeing of the cracks and that the airlines are cooperating with the team from the aircraft maker to fix the planes. A team from Chicago-based Boeing arrived in Korea on Oct. 31 to begin repairs from this month, according to a ministry official.

Boeing Korea confirmed in a statement Monday that “we are working closely with our airline customers to replace the parts where the cracking has been found.”

During a briefing with reporters held Monday at the airline’s hangar in Gangseo District, western Seoul, Lee Soo-keun, an executive vice president of Korean Air, said that Boeing “has agreed to replace parts for both sides even when a crack is found on one side of the suspension system as safety concern became a big issue.”

For the replacement, it takes roughly two weeks for a single plane. The Land Ministry said it will complete repairs of the 13 grounded planes by January next year. Planes of Korean Air and affiliated Jin Air will be fixed at Korean Air’s hangar. The location for repair work for the low-cost carriers is still being discussed with Boeing.

The remaining 50 737NG planes will be inspected by Nov. 25, the ministry said.

If local airlines are to buy new 737NG planes, the ministry plans to mandate inspections before putting them into use, so that only the ones without the cracks can be registered.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]