Boeing discovers cracks in 737 NG wing joints

Boeing’s 737 NG Assembly Line. Source: Boeing.

Boeing recently notified the FAA of an emerging issue with older 737 NG airframes. “On a small number of airplanes undergoing modifications,” cracks were found in a component used to join the wings to the fuselage, commonly referred to as a pickle fork, according to a written statement from Boeing. 

Further inspections have since uncovered issues on a small number of 737 NGs, prompting the FAA to order broader inspections of all 737 NGs.  In the coming days, the FAA is expected to issue additional guidance for inspection, and possible repair for the part that was designed to last the life-cycle of the aircraft.   

A source familiar with the matter tells Cargo Facts that the issue was found with three 737-800 NGs undergoing conversion to freighter configuration, and that each of the airframes had over 33,000 cycles. Boeing confirmed only that no issues have yet been discovered on in-service aircraft.  “Over the coming days, we will work closely with our customers to implement and recommended inspection plan for certain airplanes in the fleet,” Boeing’s statement continued.  

Unless inspections reveal a more serious problem, the broader impact on 737 NG passenger-to-freighter conversions is expected to be minimal. With more than 7,000 737 NGs in service, the model is Boeing’s most popular plane. Freighter conversion of 737 NGs is starting to become a popular option for the model. Boeing has five 737-800BCF conversion lines in China, spread across the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services (BSAS) facility at Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and STAECO at TNA, and expects to redeliver a total of seventeen 737-800BCFs in 2019, compared to eight last year.  

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