The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it plans to order an in-depth inspection of all DC-9 aircraft after uncovering cracks in three planes.
The agency “uncovered a series of small cracks in three DC-9 aircraft” flown by Northwest Airlines and USAir Group Inc., FAA spokesman Bob Buckhorn said. “As a result of this finding, FAA plans to order shortly an in-depth inspection of the DC-9 fleet.”
The FAA is awaiting completion of inspections already under way before ordering the inspection of all DC-9s, he said.
“The cracks, the longest of which was approximately one inch, are located in the uppermost area of the fuselage over the wing,” Buckhorn said.
The announcement came a day after the FAA tightened the schedule for inspection and replacement of 7,200 rivets on almost 300 of the oldest Boeing 737s. The roof of one of those planes, flown by Aloha Airlines, tore off during flight on April 28, killing one person.
The agency said the cracks in the DC-9s, manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Co., a division of McDonnell Douglas Corp., were not as serious and “in no manner comparable to the recent cracks discovered in Boeing 737 aircraft fuselage joints,” and noted that corrosion was not a factor in any of the cracks.
The agency emphasized that the cracks do not mean the passenger jets are unsafe.
“I am confident that these cracks could not become a threat to the structural integrity of the aircraft,” FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor said in a statement.
“We’re talking about very small cracks. We’re not talking about the kind of thing we found in the Boeings,” Buckhorn said.
The fuselage cracks were found on older aircraft that had between 65,000 and 70,000 landings, and the agency’s more extensive inspection could involve up to 200 of the oldest planes.
Meanwhile, the agency said that it would also recommend that aircraft outside the United States be inspected.