Inspections Reveal Missing Hardware in 3 Boeing 737s

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Emergency inspections of 68 U.S.-registered Boeing 737s have turned up missing screws and one loose bolt in the tail sections of three aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

In addition, fasteners were found missing on planes operated by an unidentified Japanese carrier, the Wall Street Journal reported.

FAA spokesman Tim Pile confirmed that four screws in a row were missing on a 737 delivered to Continental Airlines in August. The Houston-based operator said the discovery was made late Friday and the missing screws--out of 190 on the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer--were replaced immediately.


The horizontal stabilizer is the small wing at the rear of the aircraft that helps balance and steer the plane.

The FAA issued an airworthiness directive ordering the inspections after a preliminary investigation of the Dec. 19 crash of a SilkAir Boeing 737 revealed the plane lacked 26 fasteners on its horizontal stabilizer. The jet crashed onto the island of Sumatra during a flight from Jakarta to Singapore, killing all 104 people aboard.

FAA investigators believe a bolt from an elevator hinge on the SilkAir jet may have been missing when it crashed. The elevator, on the trailing edge of the stabilizer, also helps control the aircraft. The agency has stressed that there is no evidence that the missing or loose fasteners caused the accident.

Southwest Airlines said a screw on the forward edge of one aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer was missing, according to Pile. In another Southwest plane, a loose bolt was found on an elevator hinge, he said.