FAA orders Boeing 737 inspections after fire

Federal Aviation Administration asks airlines to inspect wing slats on airplanes after a malfunctioning part on a China Airlines plane caused a fire last week.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to inspect wing slats on all newer Boeing 737 aircraft after an initial investigation said a loose part caused a fuel leak and subsequent fire that destroyed a China Airlines 737 last week in Japan.

The FAA issued the directive on Saturday to owners and operators of 783 U.S. planes that have been in service since 1998, but the directive will likely be applied to the nearly 2,300 planes worldwide soon, the agency said.

Boeing 737
Boeing 737

FAA spokesman Les Dorr said other directives would follow.

"We consider this an interim action," he said. "Obviously we're looking at it, Boeing is looking at it, and if we come up with something better, there might be some other action, but that is to be determined."

The FAA said the directive was issued after the China Airlines incident and another incident involving the wing slats of a 737.

In the China Airlines incident, investigators found that a bolt from the right wing slat pierced a fuel tank, causing a fuel leak and fire just after landing on Aug. 20. All 165 people aboard escaped moments before flames engulfed the plane.

In the other incident, a loose nut pierced the slat housing wall. Maintenance workers found fuel leaking through the hole.

Slats slide out from the forward edge of a plane's wing to stabilize it during landings and take-offs.

The directive gives owners and operators 24 days to complete the detailed inspections. Those inspections are to be repeated every 3,000 flights. It also orders a one-time tightening of the nut and bolt that hold the assembly in place.

Boeing (Charts, Fortune 500) spokesman Jim Proulx said the aircraft maker has received four reports of the nut coming loose from the assembly. It issued a service letter in December 2005 telling operators to check the assembly to be sure the nut was tightened, he said. Two minor updates to the letter have been issued since then, Proulx said, most recently last month.

The directive applies to Boeing Model 737-600, -700, -700C, -800, -900, and -900ER series airplanes that have been in service since 1998, the FAA said. Top of page