Dozens of Boeing 737NG jetliners grounded worldwide due to cracks

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A Boeing 737 Max jet coming in for a landing (Nexstar, file)

AUSTRALIA, (CBS NEWS, AFP) – Boeing announced Thursday up to 50 of its popular 737NG planes had been grounded after cracks were detected in them, in another blow to the U.S. aircraft maker following two deadly crashes.

Australian national carrier Qantas became the latest airline to take one of the planes out of the air, as it said it would urgently inspect 32 others but insisted passengers had nothing to fear.

The announcement by Qantas came after authorities in Seoul said nine of the planes were grounded in South Korea in early October, including five operated by Korean Air.

Boeing had previously reported a problem with the model’s “pickle fork” — a part that helps bind the wing to the fuselage.

This prompted U.S. regulators to early this month order immediate inspections of aircraft, which had seen heavy use.

Following the Qantas announcement, a Boeing spokesperson on Thursday told AFP in Sydney that less than five percent of 1,000 planes had cracks detected and were grounded for repair.

The spokesperson did not give an exact figure, though five percent equates to 50 planes of 1,000 inspected.

Boeing and Qantas stressed travelers should not be concerned.

“We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so,” Qantas head of engineering Chris Snook said.

But the discovery has heightened fears that the scale of the 737NGs’ problem may have been underestimated.

Dozens of Boeing 737NG jetliners grounded worldwide due to cracks

Boeing announced Thursday up to 50 of its popular 737NG planes had been grounded after cracks were detected in them, in another blow to the U.S. aircraft maker following two deadly crashes.

Australian national carrier Qantas became the latest airline to take one of the planes out of the air, as it said it would urgently inspect 32 others but insisted passengers had nothing to fear.

The announcement by Qantas came after authorities in Seoul said nine of the planes were grounded in South Korea in early October, including five operated by Korean Air.

Boeing had previously reported a problem with the model’s “pickle fork” — a part that helps bind the wing to the fuselage.

This prompted U.S. regulators to early this month order immediate inspections of aircraft, which had seen heavy use.

Following the Qantas announcement, a Boeing spokesperson on Thursday told AFP in Sydney that less than five percent of 1,000 planes had cracks detected and were grounded for repair.

The spokesperson did not give an exact figure, though five percent equates to 50 planes of 1,000 inspected.

Boeing and Qantas stressed travelers should not be concerned.

“We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so,” Qantas head of engineering Chris Snook said.

But the discovery has heightened fears that the scale of the 737NGs’ problem may have been underestimated.

The NG is a precursor plane to the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded since mid-March following the two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Boeing is still trying to restore its safety reputation after the two 737 MAX crashes last year that killed 346 people and highlighted problems with the planes’ flight handling software.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg faced another round of tough questions on Wednesday from U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of a “lack of candor” over the crashes.

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