600 Planes Could Have Major Mechanical Problems

Your flight could be affected by a mandatory inspection of hundreds of planes around the world, all because of a possibly major problem. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to check 600 Boeing 737s for problems with a mechanism that controls the planes’ tail flaps. Most of those planes are commercial and still in service. The emergency inspection includes the following Boeing models: 737-600 737-700 737-700C 737-800 737-900 737-900ER More than half the fleet of Orlando International Airport’s largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, is affected. According to Southwest’s Web site, The company operates 340 of the 737-700 model jets. Of those, officials said 34 affected jets are required to be checked with 30 days, and the rest would be checked during routine maintenance. Officials told News 13 inspections on Southwest’s affected planes began overnight Saturday. No problems were immediately identified. The problem was serious enough to force a European flight to make an emergency landing earlier in March. The plane was said to be fine until about mid-flight, when witnesses said it started shaking, describing it as “severe vibration.” Inspectors said they found extensive damage to the left elevator, a movable tail flap that controls the pitch of the airplane, up or down. “This condition, if not corrected, could result in a loss of aircraft control and structural integrity,” the FAA said in a prepared statement. The administration told airlines Friday to check the horizontal tail fins on the 600 affected planes within the next month. About half of the affected planes are flying throughout the U.S., but passengers News 13 caught up with at Orlando International Airport said they still felt safe. “We fly Alaska Airlines all the time,” Paul Joyce told News 13. “It’s all they have. It doesn’t bother us a bit.” Alaska Airlines has already began inspecting two planes, saying they have 12 more to go, with no problems found thus far. The airline said the remainder will be inspected over the next six days. “I think every airline should be doing their inspections, and taking a very serious look at it,” said Lynelle Wallace, about to catch a flight out of Orlando Sunday morning. The FAA said some of the jets must be inspected within 12 days, and the rest within 30 days. No injuries have been reported in connection to the issue as of Sunday.

Reported by Mark Jenkins ORLANDO

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