This week, Qantas and Ryanair each found three of their Boeing 737NG aircraft that were inspected to have cracks in the pickle forks that hold the wing and fuselage together.  The number of incidents, as inspections are made worldwide, continues to grow.  While only about 5% of the older 737NG models tested show cracks, the grounded aircraft must undergo a repair estimated at about $275,000 to return to the air, and takes several weeks to accomplish.   Ryanair has even been criticized for stating that media reports that turned out to be true were “rubbish.”

At the same time, with Lion Air finding cracks on two 737NGs with fewer than 22,000 flights, the call for additional inspections could come quite quickly, and several industry experts are urging the FAA to remove the age limit for the mandatory extensions.

All of this happening during the grounding of the 737MAX is less than optimal timing for Boeing.  Anything 737 related, even if a different problem on a different model that has not resulted in any inflight incidents, is bound to gain attention in today’s environment.  There is a lot of sensitivity about anything 737 these days, both at Boeing and with their airline customers.  Both fear a strong customer backlash against that aircraft type.  On top of that, Boeing is dealing with a media backlash, as news media have tired of Boeing’s lack of transparency, and are now examining everything with a fine toothed investigative comb.

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