Boeing fixing three Ryanair planes with 'pickle' cracks
Boeing is repairing three older Ryanair aircraft that have been affected by the latest technical issue to dog the US jet-maker.
Still reeling from the fallout from the global grounding of its 737 Max aircraft after two fatal crashes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently revealed that a small number of 737 aircraft have cracks between the wings and fuselage.
The cracks have appeared on a component called pickle forks, which attach the wings to the aircraft body.
The FAA ordered all airlines to inspect their 737 NG jets after the issue was first discovered on an ageing 737 aircraft being converted from passenger to cargo use for the Chinese market.
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The FAA said that the issue, if not addressed, could result in a situation where the structural integrity of the aircraft could be adversely affected and "result in the loss of control of the airplane".
US airline Southwest initially detected the issue on two of its aircraft, which it grounded, while a Brazilian airline found it on 11 jets. Australian carrier Qantas also found the issue on some of its 737s.
But Ryanair yesterday branded as "rubbish" a report in the UK's 'Guardian' newspaper that claimed the airline attempted to "misreport" the issue in relation to its jets.
Ryanair has a fleet of more than 450 Boeing 737-800 jets, and is the largest operator in Europe of the aircraft type. The airline said that it has already inspected more than 70 of its oldest aircraft in full compliance with the airworthiness directive issued by the FAA last month.
"Our rate of findings is less than the industry-wide 5pc confirmed by Boeing recently," said Ryanair in a statement.
"Ryanair will continue to inspect the remainder of its fleet, in full compliance with the airworthiness directive, and we are confident that the tiny number of pickle fork cracks, if any, will not affect either Ryanair's fleet, its flights, or its schedules," it added.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said this week that the airline is retaining some of its older aircraft while it waits for the 737 Max jet to be approved again by regulators for flying.
"We're keeping more of our older aircraft into next year because of the delay in the Max deliveries," he said.
Ryanair had expected to have 58 Max jets in service in time for next summer, but it now expects to receive just 20 of the aircraft in time for the busy season.
But Mr O'Leary conceded that the carrier could end up having none of the jets in service in time for next summer.