Grounded IAI-converted 737Fs returning to service following approval of interim fix

Containers being loaded on to an Alaska Air Cargo 737-700F.

An Alaska Air Cargo 737-700BDSF at the carrier’s hub in Seattle (SEA).

On Dec. 11, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) informed operators of a manufacturing noncompliance issue with the rigid barrier (9G) systems installed on some IAI-converted 737s freighter causing operators to temporarily ground up to 40 aircraft.

On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) approving an interim fix and by Saturday, some carriers were returning aircraft to service. The FAA-approved fix is based on a service bulletin released by IAI on Thursday. The temporary fix includes the use of additional tie-down straps and reduced cargo weights for some loading configurations.

Yesterday, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines resumed operating at two of three 737-700BDSFS that had been grounded since Dec. 11. Its third aircraft is scheduled to fly tonight, according to Flightradar24.  Other carriers with IAI-converted 737Fs, such as Australia-based Qantas, have yet to resume operating potentially affected aircraft. Qantas’ four-unit 737-300BDSF fleet remains grounded.

While it remains unclear how the manufacturing defect was identified, additional details have emerged regarding the issue itself. On some IAI-converted 737s (-300BDSFs, -400BDSFs and -700BDSFs), “The surface preparation before bonding was improperly done,” according to FAA AD #: 2019-25-55. An incomplete seal could, “affect the 9G rigid barrier’s strength characteristics,” the notice continued.

Under certain emergency conditions, the improperly installed barriers could result in potential failure of the barrier, and, depending on cargo loads, could injure occupants on the other side of the barrier.

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