Four Qantas Boeing 737-400 aircraft grounded for emergency checks

By John Walton, April 6 2011
Four Qantas Boeing 737-400 aircraft grounded for emergency checks

Qantas has been forced to ground four of its Boeing 737-400 jets in response to the emergency landing of a Southwest Airlines flight in the US over the weekend.

The Qantas planes represent just a fraction of the 175 aircraft grounded worldwide following a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety directive yesterday. 79 of the grounded planes belong to Southwest, which has already found problems in three of them.

Australia's CASA adopted the American FAA directive immediately, leading to the grounding of four of Qantas' twenty-one Boeing 737 aircraft.

The directive requires that airlines use certain types of electromagnetic scanning to discover otherwise-invisible fatigue cracks in the aircraft's skin.

As Australian Business Traveller reported yesterday in our analysis of what the Southwest incident means for Qantas and Air New Zealand passengers, Qantas' older 737-400 aircraft were all built before the Southwest plane involved in the emergency depressurisation incident. 

Qantas uses the older planes mainly around Australia's east coast and across the Tasman to New Zealand. 

The Australian reported a Qantas spokesman saying that the four Boeing 737 aircraft covered by the directive "will be out of service for the required electromagnetic inspection over the next ten days".

An emergency grounding isn't going to do very much for the price that Qantas hopes to get for the full 21-strong 737-400 fleet, which it put up for sale earlier this week. Initial reports that the aircraft could fetch up to $20 million have swiftly been knocked down to $3-4 million.

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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