Air New Zealand to check entire Boeing 737 fleet for cracks after Southwest emergency

By John Walton, April 6 2011
Air New Zealand to check entire Boeing 737 fleet for cracks after Southwest emergency

Air New Zealand is checking its entire fleet of fifteen Boeing 737-300 aircraft following the explosive decompression of a Southwest Airlines plane last weekend.

All the 737s in the Air New Zealand fleet (which have an average age of 13.2 years according to the airline) are the same 737-300 model that was involved in the Southwest incident. The planes are used on Air New Zealand's domestic mainline jet routes.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller: "Fifteen of our aircraft will be checked. One aircraft needs to be checked within the next five days, and this will be completed as part of its scheduled maintenance which is already underway this week. The other 14 aircraft will be completed within the timeframe set out in Boeing's service bulletin."

Airplane manufacturer Boeing has issued a Service Bulletin to all airlines using the older 737s explaining precisely what steps must be undertaken. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety regulator has also issued an Airworthiness Directive, mandating that airlines follow Boeing's instructions.

Our article on the impact for Australian and NZ airlines of the Southwest Airlines incident has further information about what happened and the initial findings from Boeing, Southwest and US safety regulators.

Qantas was forced to ground four of its Boeing 737-400 aircraft (all older than the Southwest plane) earlier today by the Australian CASA in order to carry out the same checks.

The Air New Zealand spokesperson also told us: "Air New Zealand follows all relevant directives from authorities and aircraft manufacturers and will be carrying out these additional checks in accordance with the required timeframe. All Air New Zealand aircraft are regularly checked as part of their standard maintenance routine with no issues of this type previously experienced in the fleet."

Air New Zealand is phasing out its entire Boeing 737 fleet in favour of the larger, more modern and more fuel-efficient Airbus A320.

On a reassuring note for Air New Zealand passengers, the spokeswoman also told Australian Business Traveller: "The checks will not affect our scheduled services."

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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