AD Calls For Checks Of Overwing Frames For Cracking
Chalk up another black mark for the stalwart MD-80. On Tuesday,
the FAA ordered a new round of inspections for all MD-80-series
airliners, to check for fuselage fatigue cracking.
Airworthiness Directive 2008-13-29, issued
Tuesday, calls for all McDonnell Douglas Model DC-9-81, -82, -83,
-87 and -88 airplanes to be checked for cracks of the overwing
frames. The FAA says those cracks could spread, severing the frames
and resulting in damage of failure to surrounding structural areas,
a potentially catastrophic event.
USA Today reports such cracks have already been found on an
undisclosed number of MD-80s.
The AD affects 670 aircraft registered in the United States,
including 212 MD-82s and MD-83s flying for American Airlines, and
117 MD-88s in service with Delta. The directive takes effect August
12, and calls for compliance within 24 months. The FAA estimates
the checks will cost US operators $214,400 per inspection
Speaking of American -- the largest operator in the world of the
aging narrowbody jets -- issuance of the new AD comes a bit over
three months after another call for mandatory inspections grounded
American's MD-80 fleet for four days, while the airline reinspected
its planes for improperly bundled wiring harnesses in the plane's
maingear wells. Over 3,300 flights were grounded as a result,
costing American millions of dollars in operational costs and
Besides American and Delta, other US operators of the type
include Midwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines -- which were also
forced to ground their planes earlier this year. Since April, all
four carriers have announced substantial cuts to their respective
MD-80 fleets... partly due to efficiency concerns with the
gas-swilling aircraft but also because of increased maintenance
costs in keeping the planes in the air.
American spokesman Tim Wagner said the airline expects things to
go much more smoothly this time around, with the new checks
incorporated into normal maintenance checks for its MD-80s.
The FAA says a modification to the supports is in the works,
which could address the unsafe condition once and for all.