FAA Directs Airlines to Check Tail Flap of 737's

Airlines say flights aren't being affected

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency airworthiness directive demanding that airlines check a mechanism that controls tail flaps on about 600 Boeing 737’s.

The directive was issued Friday and concerns flaps on the horizontal tails of the jets. On March 2, a Ryan Air 737-800, en route from the Netherlands to Madrid, Spain, experienced severe vibrations in flight and had to make an unscheduled landing in Belgium.

Inspection afterward found "extensive damage" to the left elevator, which is a movable flap on the horizontal tail that controls the pitch of the airplane, up or down.

The agency said some of the jets must be inspected within 12 days, and the rest within 30 days. FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said about half the affected airplanes are operating in the U.S.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has 340 737-700 model jets.  Of those, only 34 are affected by the directive.

A spokesperson said Sunday that they began looking at affected aircraft Friday night and had already completed 13 visual inspections.  Southwest said it would have all the planes inspected by March 19. 

So far, no issues have been discovered.

Southwest said no flights are being affected by the inspections.  Maintenance workers are waiting for the planes to be done for the day in lieu of trying to intercept them during layovers.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines has 81 737-800 aircraft, according to the company’s Web site.

Spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan said Sunday she wasn’t immediately aware of any inspections of AA aircraft, or if any flights were affected.

This inspection mandate comes during the very busy first travel weekend of spring break.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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