FAA calls for check of 737s
By Leslie Miller
WASHINGTON The federal government ordered inspections today of Boeing 737s flying worldwide to see if any have potentially defective flight control modules that could make the planes hard to control.
The emergency order by the Federal Aviation Administration gives airlines 10 days to complete the review.
Each plane has two modules that control hydraulic fluid to the flight control system. A failure of both modules could significantly affect the flight control systems, making the jetliners sluggish to nearly impossible to operate, according to FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto.
To check the modules, "you just have to look up into the wheel well and check the serial number," Takemoto said.
The FAA said it's looking for a recent batch of modules that has a high rate of failure. Fifteen modules were found to be defective, four while in flight, 11 during inspections on the ground, Takemoto said. None caused an accident, he said.
There are 84 foreign aircraft with the modules from the bad batch and nine U.S. 737s, Takemoto said.
Aloha Airlines' entire fleet of aircraft is 737s, including the long-range 737-700.
But Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman said last night that the airline had not seen the inspection order and could not comment. However, he said that if it does apply to Aloha, "we will be in full compliance."
A spokesman for the company that made the modules, European-based Smiths Aerospace, had no immediate comment on the FAA order.
James McKenna, managing editor of Aviation Maintenance magazine, said the airplanes are probably built so that if all of the flight control modules break, the pilot still has some mechanical physical control of the airplane.
"Still," he said, "there's a possibility that this could lead to a crash."
Seventy-eight of the 93 aircraft with possibly faulty modules have two of the modules on them, Takemoto said.
Staff writer Curtis Lum contributed to this report.