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FAA Records Show Previous Cracks In Plane

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – More information is coming out about the Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-300 that had a hole open up on its roof during flight Friday afternoon.

The flight was on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento when it had to divert to Yuma, Arizona.

CBS 11 looked through FAA records online and found more than 100 reports from 1999 through this year.

Records show the airline repaired a small crack in the slat on the underside of the plane’s left wing just last week.

The FAA’s records also show there were multiple small cracks found on the frame and fuselage during scheduled inspections last year and in 2006.

The FAA records show the cracks were all repaired.  Aviation experts say cracks are routinely found on the skin of older jets and repaired.

Last year, the FAA ordered the inspections on the roofs of older model 737’s, but gave airlines time to do so.

On Saturday, Southwest was asked if it had conducted an inspection on the roof of the plane in question.  The airline hasn’t answered that just yet.

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  • bill

    boeing that explains it all.all they build is junk.look at there newest planes.they all have cracks too..FAA AKA GOVERNMENT..

    • mjsd msa

      Bill, you are an idiot!!!!!

    • knowlegeable


      You and your four posts here are right on! I actually heard that this plane was built in 1941 and flew over germany, and got holes in it from the flak guns. They never repaired them properly and they just recently got the plane out of mothballs, threw some seats in it and spray-painted it with some Krylon to make it look modern.

      Oh wait, I actually know something and the 737-300 series did not have its first flight until 1984, did not start service until late 1984, and this particular aircraft is 15 years old. Guess you were wrong on the 1970s thing. Oh well.

      Oh yes and Boeing does make junk, you’re right, thats why there has not been a single fatality on a boeing made aircraft in the united states since September 11, 2001. The last major airline accident in the united states was November 2001 involvine an American Airlines AIRBUS. Huh. Guess you might want to do some research before spouting off nonsense. During the same 10 year period an average of 40,000 automobile occupants were killed in the united states annually.

      I’m guessing you’re a mechanic who was fired?

  • bill

    what pilot in his right mind would fly a plane built by boeing..there newest planes are full of cracks.and they do not know how to fix them.

    • GJP

      Again, your lack of knowledge about aviation is killing me. Also, the correct word is “their”, not “there”.

      • Alvar the Fool

        Yeah, so they’re

      • knowledgeable


        Bill isnt the sharpest tool in the shed. I think Bill should design and build aircraft, I’d be the first one in line to fly on that one!!

      • Tia Browne

        GJP, your lack of knowledge about punctuation is killing ME. The correct placement of the comma is inside the quotation mark or period.

    • John Frykman

      The 737 is the most popular commercial airliner in use today. It has an excellent safety record, and in fact Boeing (capital “B”) has orders for the newest version stretching out for years into the future.

      Do the airline companies know more about reliability than YOU do??? Airliners, particularly older ones (we are talking the 737-300 which has been in service for more than 30 years) need maintenance. The problem here is maintenance, not manufacturing defects!

      • 737 Captain

        Right on, John. The 737-300 is a workhorse and a VERY reliable airplane. One minor correction to what you wrote: The -300 first flew in early 1984 and entered commercial service late that year.

        To some of you who made remarks critical of Boeing and its products, here’s some advice from a guy who’s been flying for 39 years: “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.”

    • planemaker

      at least the pilot is allowed to fly these planes and land safely onthe ground instead of winding up like an airbus and having to ditch into the hudson river because the computers overide the pilot inputs.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Simulators for Airbusses simulate real airplanes…it’s the only time Airbus pilots fly “real” airplanes…they oversight a computer the rest of the time!!!

      • Rogue Leader


        You have no idea what you are talking about. The Air bus ended up in the Hudson because both engines failed after hitting dozens of Canadian Geese. The airplane ran out of energy. It could only glide so far. The computers over-riding the pilots inputs in pure hog wash. In fact, if the FADECs could have restarted the engines they would have. It was Sully and Skiles skill and inputs that saved the plane. I suggest you research your inputs before you make statements that are not true. I have over 6000 hours in the Air bus and almost 4000 hours in the B-737. Both are fine planes, but I prefer the Airbus. Cracks form on any material because of repeated applications of pressure. Given enough time, any material will fail. There are acceptable maintenance standards and practices developed by the FAA and industry to mitigate cracks. Whether those practices were followed is the question. Even if Southwest followed the practices explicitly, there is and always will be a chance something will go wrong. It is a fact of life.

    • Aldo

      Many friends who are pilots believe in the following axiom:

      “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going!!!”..”

    • Randall Stephens

      The 737 is an excellent aircraft when properly maintained. Apparently the cozy FAA relationship with Gary Kelly’s maintenance program is showing it’s wrinkles again. Don’t worry SWA, your buddies will probably create a diversion at Another AAirline again like last time.

  • Capt. Bob Mearns

    Minor cracks appear all the time in all different make of aircraft. That’s why the airlines employ A & P mechanics. To maintain the aircraft. The fuselage rupturing in flight is an issue…minor cracks are not.

    • goshen

      Pilots and stewardesses are pressurized and depressurized several times a day. Why don’t their heads crack open?

    • Capt Jack

      Most of these cracks are due to unnecesary stress by cowboys hitting the tarmac too hard. That’s what the rate of descent gauge is for.

      • Dmitri

        I AM an airline pilot, and any pilot can tell you that during the flare, your eyes transfer from the touchdown zone to the end of the runway, to properly gauge your height and flare angle. Looking at the vertical speed gauge (not “descent gauge”), would distract you from what you are really supposed to be doing, and lead to a truly disasterous landing, Capt Jack.

      • Floyd

        @ Capt. Jack0ff: Besides, the “tarmac” is not the RUNWAY, but the RAMP. The surface you so incorrectly refer to as the “tarmac” could never withstand the loads of these large aircraft constantly landing on it. Let’s hope to god you don’t fly an airplane,but if you do, please do not try to land on the “tarmac”.

      • Elmer

        Real captains don’t use the word
        ‘tarmac”. It is a runway.

      • Alvar the Fool

        Yeah like Broke Back Mountain….those cowboys…..

      • Paul

        Floyd, In most of Europe, they call most any concrete Tarmac. Also notice the cowboy comment that Europeans use often. I spend a good deal of time in Europe and I didn’t think anything of his phrasing until you mentioned it… that’s just the way they speak.

  • bill

    to save money some air lines-are contracting out repairs-to repair places in other countries..where some people work on the planes that can not read or speak english.they can not read .anything about repairing the planes..it is all about money and greed..they do not care about-there own employees or pilots..

    • Rick D.

      Believe it or not, some people in countries other than the U.S. CAN actually read and write in English, and even though it’s not their primary language, a lot of them even use proper punctuation and capitalization! Now go back under your bridge.

  • bill

    why should boeing do any inspections of these old planes.i bet some-were built in 1970.they know they are-falling apart and coming apart..it is all about money and greed..check on who are repairing there planes..even boeings brand new planes have cracks.and they do not know what to do..to stop-building planes that do not crack..my guess.too big..too heavy..

    • Mike Hillwig

      The Boeing 737-300 was introduced in 1984. Southwest was one of the launch customers for that particular model.

    • GJP

      you, my friend, know nothing about aviation.

  • billy


    • NICK C


      • Alvar the Fool

        Nick why do you respond to idiots….ooopppsss I just did….

  • Cyanide Tea

    Thanks Southwest! Thank you so much for putting corporate profit above human life. Really appreciating that.

    …I’m flying Southwest at the end of the month – lets hope you change your ways before then, mmkay.

    • GJP

      well, if you chose to put cheaper ticket prices ahead of your perceived view of safety, how is that any different logic. SWA has one of the safest records of all the airlines.

    • Susan

      If you were truly concerned…you would cancle your flight!!

      • whaddup

        cancle? Isn’t that the ankle disease Hillary has??

    • Boogeroo

      Who says you HAVE to fly? Take a bus.

      • goshen

        busses get cracks too. they are just as dangerous as planes.

      • BarackObama




    • thehound

      Such as canceling 300 flights two consecutive days to examine all these aircraft? You twit.

    • BobH

      You make a comment but provide no evidence. Plane had problem and they grounded other planes and canceled flights as a precaution. How is this putting profit before life? Until we know what caused the lid to pop keep it sane.

    • knowledgable

      Southwest will have been flying for 40 years as June 2011. They have had ZERO crashes, and one ground fatality during that period. ZERO on board accident fatalities in 40 years.

      I think we should all still be hysterical about this, make corporate greed remarks, etc. I am tired of of the individuals posting on here with facts, numbers and “reason.” No one needs reason! Lets keep screaming!

      • Harlan G Weinberger

        Thats absolutely false unknowledgable “knowledgable”. Burbank’s SWA accident overrun landing on RWY 08 come to mind? Nearly plowing into a gasoline station. No fatalities luckily.

      • bc

        I would fly in a Boeing any day of the week. If you have ever been to the factory and see what they go through before they fly you would be amazed.

    • J in Pasadena

      Southwest has among the best airline safety records in aviation. They’ve brought planes down several times in emergency landings, and each and every time did not crash the planes. Their pilots are pleasant and super skilled. Other less skilled pilots might have tossed the entire vessel. You can not beat that record.

      • Habs

        If I was on the plane in Burbank, I would have slid down the ramp, handed the clerk my credit card and ask them to fill it up and check the tires!

      • knowledgeable

        @bilko. Yes, southwest did have two accidents – two runway overruns, which again resulted in no on board fatalities, and one ground fatality. Go ahead and look at United, American, etc and let me know how many accident fatalities they have had over the last 40 years. So before you start criticizing southwest’s safety record, you may again want to check the actual facts. Facts are stubborn things.

      • Bilko_83

        Those of you contending Southwest has never had a “crash” are ignoring the overrun in San Diego that wound up with their 737 “parked” entirely by chance off the airport and 10 feet from the gas pumps at the Chevron station and the nose gear collapsed entirely due to pilot error in trying to land on a flooded runway and a touchdown point that was too far down the runway, an approach that was too steep, and too fast; and the problem at Chicago Midway where the aircraft partially overran a surface street and cars, resulting in the death of a young child on the ground. Anyone who does not count these as “crashes” is playing semantic games. They are certainly not part of scheduled service.

      • Rogue Leader


        The incident was Burbank not San Diego. If you don’t know your facts you don’t have credibility.

      • Jackro

        How is that proof of a poor airline, at best it is poor piloting, which can happen in ANY airline, especially when their salaries are being cut like crazy to keep flying cheap enough for the average flyier

    • JF

      I think SW did have an accident a couple of years ago but it was a plane skidding off the runway. I fly SW all the time and will continue to do so. If you don’t like SW go fly with someone else.

      • Capt. AR

        You could fly AIRLIBYA…

  • Mark Stockman

    Sounds like Southwest needs to bite the bullet and shorten their replacement cycle. But if, as some posters have suggested, the newer Boeing jets are even worse, what is a company supposed to do? Go with foreign made Airbus planes? Part of what makes Southwest is having a fleet of the same aircraft, so it’s easier to stock parts and their mechanics become experts on the type. Changing over their fleet would be a logistical and financial nightmare. Seriously, this sounds like something straight out of “Atlas Shrugged.”

    • Rick D.

      Replacement cycle has nothing to do with it, and I think it’s a testament to Boeing’s construction that a piece of structure came off and it didn’t cause a crash. Heck, the Aloha 737 in the 80’s lost 1/3 of its roof and they were STILL able to land it safely.

      It’s a solid plane, and Southwest is one of the best at maintenance. They’ll sort this out and keep it from happening again.

    • George McCrea

      This is what happened with air canada, Having a plethora of different aircraft bankrupted them twice. Dare say union employees wanted one rate for one aircraft and another rate for another. Costly nightmare. Westjet and Southwest same idea, same result.

  • Chang

    Should’a used JB Weld on dem cracks!

    • Sam

      Boss Chang,

      I ordered the baling wire just like you said. I’m having it delivered to SW Maintenance Hanger B for Monday morning.

      – Sam

    • Delbert Sperbleman

      Duct tape, Chang , duct tape.

      • Dilbert Sperbleman


        I’m telling Mon your on the computer again!

  • Sandcastle Builder

    Comments brought to you by a total lack of engineering knowledge. Please put seat backs and tray tables in their full upright and locked positions as we prepare to descend into ignorance and fear. Do you know what you’re talking about? The internet will help you think you do!

    • The Internet

      Hey don’t blame me!

    • Rick D.

      That made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that!

  • john

    I demand that we ground all commercial aircraft immediately until the air carriers and the head of the FAA personally guarantee that there will no further safety related incidents, accidents, or clogged toilets on air-carrier jets. The one in four trillion chance that a passenger my die of a structurally related failure is simply intolerable.

    We must eliminate all risk from our lives at all cost.

    • dg

      Also, I better security from the TSA. Ban all cargo, luggage, and passengers from planes!

    • John Frykman

      Why stop at commercial aircraft? All surgeries must be banned. All drugs and vaccines must be eliminated. Bicycles and cars must be taken off the road. No pesticides may be used on crops (try to buy a banana or a head of lettuce). Let’s also eliminate all corporations (partnerships and sole proprietorships too) as no one is entitled to make a profit. We can thereby eliminate “corporate greed” (as well as all jobs, too, except for those who work for the government–at least until the cash runs out

      And lastly, of course, let’s start the blame game before anyone has had a chance to investigate the actual cause of the issue. By why investigate? All the brilliant products of our government schools posting here already have all the answers. Mostly, it’s all related to global warming…er, climate change…er, climate disruption, or whatever they are calling it these days.

      • clouseau

        Actually, some of those are good ideas. The best is getting rid of the limited liability corporation. This beast was invented by English banksters right after the civil war when they got control of their colonies again. Everything you imagine to he government is actually a LLC. For example,you can find you town, court, police depth., state, and all the Moriarty federal agencies listed on Dunn and Bradstreet.

      • Michael

        I believe we should all stop breathing until air is proven safe and effective!

    • Tim

      John, either you are sarcastic or crazy

      • Allvar the Fool

        Are those his two options? I was going to vote for him for public office!

  • Vagabundo

    I agree that corporate greed is an issue but it does not stop there.

    Everyone wants the lowest price and people buy based on price. No one ever asks what they are sacrificing to get it on the cheap.

    In order to stay in business, corporations have to offer the lowest price.

  • Bob Armstrong

    Southwest planes do more take offs and landings that other carriers and their planes suffer from many more compressions and decompressions as a result. The 737 is near it’s end and should be replaced. We’re flying them in May.

    • Rick D.

      This aircraft has roughly 40,000 cycles (1 takeoff, 1 landing) on it, just about half of its life expectancy. The 737 is the best selling commercial jet in the world, for good reason. It’s a well-built, reliable aircraft. Things like this happen once in a while, and could have happened to any plane. Enjoy your flight in May. You’ll be fine.

      • fireboy

        I fly SWA about every four weeks and absolutely have no issue continuing to do so. The airline does have on the, if not the best safety record going. Stuff happens and as long as SWA does their due dilligence, I am saftisfied.

  • Kevin Quinn

    If you went to a car rental agency and they gave you a 1988 car with 500,000 miles on it, you’d probably refuse. Yet people will gladly get on a plane that old with untold thousands of hours on it. Even a properly maintained plane is old and they can’t fix everything because you can’t see everything.

    • RIck D.

      Not untold thousands of hours – this one has about 50,000 hours. Plus, with commercial jets, cycles is a more important number. This one has about 40,000 cycles on it (1 takeoff, 1 landing). Either way, it’s only about halfway through its expected life.

      Your rental car argument doesn’t apply. Rental agencies don’t pay $30-50 million for the cars they rent. Not to mention, the 1988 car would not be inspected and maintained to anywhere near the level of a commercial aircraft.

      • Bilko_83

        Still there are things that get missed, even during “heavy” inspections. Aircraft cost more than cars and are inspected differently for many reasons, one of which is the complexity of the engineering and the construction. The complexity can sometimes prevent observation of real problems depending on the inspection level of effort.

        Metal fatigue was blamed for an 18- by 12-inch rip in a Southwest 737 last July while it was flying at 35,000 feet, also forcing an emergency landing. In January 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered fuselage checks for metal fatigue on 135 Boeing 737-300s, -400s and -500s in the United States, after the plane’s maker recommended such checks in September 2009.

        The plane will be 15 years old in June; its fuselage skin had been inspected on March 29 and Feb. 5, Rutherford said.

        In the July 2010 incident, “continuous fatigue cracks” on the inside of the fuselage helped create the hole, the safety board said. No passengers were injured. In March 2009, Southwest agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine for flying jets in 2006 and 2007 without some required fuselage inspections.

        Finding cracks on the inside of the fuselage skin is a more difficult job considering everything that is in the way of making that observation, and is not likely to be performed as frequently as other inspections if you just consider the economics. In addition, the aircraft had been “inspected” on February 5 and the problem was not found. They do not say what type of inspection was performed.

  • Sean Ofainin

    Short haul plane are pressurized and depressurized more often which causes metal fatique. Remember the Aloha Airline incident.

  • Mel Young

    As usual, CBS and other media have blown this incident out of proportion. The plane in question has more than 39,000 takeoff-landing cycles. 737 aircraft fly millions of cycles annually with perfect safety and the minor crack was not a threat to the integrity of the aircraft itself.

    There are more than 3.500 commercial flights over the US each day and we have the best safety record in the world. This was and is a minor maintenance problem. Things happen short of schedules, sometimes but I trust SW to take care of their aircraft. They certainly don’t want things like this to happen; no commercial airline does.

    • RIck D.

      Goodness me! A voice of reason around here! Thanks Mr. Young for your reasoned thinking.

      • Capt. AR

        Second the motion….!!

  • Reality Check

    It isn’t corporate greed, it is the greed of the American consumer. Shop online for the cheapest fare when you know it doesn’t make any economic sense that an airline can operate at that seat pricing.

    Corporate greed? Who the heck do you think own coprorations? You do you stupid putz. Your 401(k), your own mutual fund investments, or maybe even your own stock portfolio. Corporations and their officers are not penalized if profits don’t meet YOUR expectations. The stock gets sold. The share price falls. The COE and others lose their jobs. Why? Because of greed of the average person, not some phantom CEO or Large Corporation.

    You are your own Boogey-man. Wake up and at least own it.

  • don black

    The level of stupid statements is astounding. If a car rental agency did maintenance on their cars to the extent that airliners do on their planes, a 500,000 mile car might a piece of body work from the original model. Everything would have been repaired or replaced several times.

    • Rick D.

      I also enjoy the “corporate greed” argument so many people employ.

      Yes, an airline is going to get REALLY RICH by skimping on maintenance and killing a bunch of people. That’s the way for the biggest profit, right? Those eeeevil capitalists…

    • Wings

      If it was Greed, then they would not have grounded 79 planes and cancelled flights to do safety checks until FAA required it.

  • virgil trucks

    FAA says – well if we lose one or two the public won’t really notice or care!

    • RobH

      Really, where is that quote from?? Or is something your ignorant self made up?

  • Gettin dirty

    First of all, most of you do not know what you are talking about. I work on these airplanes and I will tell you this…. if it wasn’t a Boeing aircraft, it probably would have gone down. Boeing makes the best aircraft ever made …so get over it.

    • RobH

      Yea. I’m glad Boeing kept their robustness in design like the WWII B17. Look at some of the crazy damage these planes returned home with.

  • Leo

    Who cares. I do not fly, so all of you that do “GOOD LUCK”

    • knowledgeable

      I think I’ll take my chances. 40 years of no on board accident fatalities in Southwest jets vs. people like you on the road. I’ll take my “chances” with them.

  • Ruckweiler

    Capt. Bob Mearns:
    As an A&P myself, cracks and stress concentrations occur on aircraft all the time. I agree with you, that’s why the airlines have mechanics. The airframe is not some rigid tank-like structure. The airframe is flexing and expanding due to the pressurization cycle and the normal movement of the aircraft in service. For Bill, if it were absolutely rigid, the aircraft would weigh so much that it couldn’t get off the ground.

  • Dave

    Trust me, the last thing any airline wants or needs is a crash. So far Southwest has a great record (no loss of life yet). Air craft get old, flex, and sometimes break. Its hard to catch some failing items, but after this you can be sure the FAA and Southwest wont let a bird fly till they check them all.

    No one would let an aircraft fly until they have been checked out.

    PS. I love Southwest, great service and great attitudes. that said ask yourself this, if you were part of the flight crue, would you get on an aircraft you did not think was safe?
    nuff said.

  • rex dart eskimo spy

    This accident should be a celebration of the high quality of the aircraft and the skills of the flight crew. A lesser aircraft like an airbus would have disintegrated in flight. A poorer pilot might not have reacted properly or as quickly. And less attentive cabin crew might have panicked.

    SWA has been a well managed airline with great staff from top to bottom. They had a pretty major accident without any loss of life in an unforgiving environment.

    My heartiest congratulations to the passengers, the flight crew, SWA and Boeing. Keep up the good work.

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