NTSB Directive Contradicts Boeing Statement

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
By George Hatcher

On April 25, the NTSB released information about the April 1 Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 fuselage incident where the rupture in the fuselage caused depressurization and forced pilots to make an emergency landing in Yuma.

From the release

The NTSB Materials Laboratory work is actively conducting additional inspections and examinations in the following areas:

  1. Removal of rivets and examination of rivet hole dimensions, rivet dimensions, and rivet hole alignment between upper and lower skins.
  2. Detailed fractographic analysis of the skin fractures emanating from the rivet holes using optical and scanning electron microscopes.
  3. Fatigue striation analysis using a scanning electron microscope of specific skin fractures to determine the rate of crack propagation.
  4. Additional portions of the lap joints from the accident aircraft.

Of 136 airplanes inspected worldwide four had crack indications at a single rivet and one plane was found to have crack indications at two rivets.

In spite of these findings, Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney told Reuters“I think the initial data that I think we’re all seeing is suggesting a possible workmanship issue on an airplane, rather than a design issue across a fleet of airplanes.”

If Boeing believes that the problem was workmanship on a single plane, then how did other planes reveal conditions precursing the same type of rupture incident as was incurred on Southwest Airlines Flight 812?

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