NEW YORK, April 24 U.S. investigators
suspect a manufacturing lapse at a Boeing Co plant
15 years ago could be to blame for a midair tear in a Southwest
Airlines Co aircraft earlier this month, the Wall Street
Journal reported on its website on Sunday.
On April 1, the Boeing 737 was heading from Phoenix to
Sacramento, California, when a 5-foot (1.52 meters) tear opened
up 20 minutes after takeoff along the roof just above the left
wing. The incident led U.S. regulators ordering airlines to
inspect older model Boeing 737 aircraft for cracks.
Southwest found fuselage cracks in five other older Boeing
737-300 aircraft in its fleet. [ID:nN05105351]
The paper reported the fuselages are built at a Kansas
factory that Boeing owned in 1996.
Investigators led by the National Transportation Safety
Board are looking into the potential impact of riveting
techniques and certain sealants going back to around that time,
the Journal said, citing government and industry officials.
They are also looking at tools used to hold aircraft parts
during assembly, the paper said, adding that officials said it
was too early to draw final conclusions.
In an e-mailed statement, Boeing said it continues to work
closely with the regulators as the investigation continues into
the root cause of the incident.
The company said so far inspections have been completed
worldwide on about 75 percent of the 190 airplanes affected.
"No conclusions have been reached about the root cause of
the inspection findings, nor of any relationship to the April 1
event," it said. "Any attempt to draw conclusions on either
would be premature and speculative."
(Reporting by Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)