Ryanair 'grounds three aircraft after discovering pickle fork cracks'

Three Ryanair planes are grounded after cracks between wings and fuselage were discovered in its huge Boeing 737 fleet as dozens of the aircraft are disabled around the world

  • Ryanair has withdrawn three jets from service until cracks on the wing are fixed
  • Two of the Boeing 737-800s have flown to California to a special repair facility
  • A third is currently being stored in Stansted Airport while it awaits repair 
  • The airline announced profits of £990 million for the first half of the year

Ryanair has withdrawn three of its aircraft from service after finding cracks between the wing and fuselage. 

Two of the Boeing 737-800s affected have been ferried to California for repair while a third is being stored at Stansted Airport. 

The budget airline launched the inspection after the US Federal Aviation Authority ordered carriers to check older new generation 737s with more than 30,000 takeoffs and landings. 

Ryanair has withdrawn three of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft from service after mechanics noticed cracks in a pickle fork which attaches the jet’s fuselage to its wing, file photograph

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary earlier this week announced profits for the first half of the year to September of £990 million

The US Federal Aviation Authority warned airlines to inspect the pickle fork attaching the fuselage of their Boeing 737 NGs to the wings on jets which have performed more than 30,000 takeoffs and landings. Boeing said approximately 50 aircraft from its fleet of more than 1,000 will need repair

The FAA said approximately five per cent of the older aircraft – some 50 worldwide – may have a crack in the pickle fork which attaches the fuselage to the wing. 

A Ryanair spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Ryanair has already inspected over 70 of its oldest aircraft in full compliance with the Airworthiness Directive, and our rate of findings is less than the industry wide 5 per cent confirmed by Boeing recently. 

‘Boeing are carrying out these repairs on behalf of Ryanair currently.’ 

The spokesperson added: ‘We continue to fully comply with Airworthiness Directive, and do not expect these inspections or this tiny number of findings will have any impact on our operations or our fleet availability.

‘Having completed all the AD inspections on the small number of our fleet with over 30,000 cycles, we are now engaged in inspections of other aircraft in the fleet with under 30,000 cycles and we are not finding any further issues. We continue to believe that we will not have any difficulty with our operating aircraft numbers or our fleet availability.’ 

Earlier, Australian airline Qantas said it found similar cracks on three of its aircraft. 

The US Federal Aviation Administration advised all airlines using the Boeing 737 NG planes that had completed more than 30,000 takeoff-and-landing cycles to check for cracks. 

The Boeing 737 NG aircraft include the 700, 800 and 900 models.  

Ryanair’s fleet includes more than 450 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.  

Boeing confirmed that around 50 aircraft worldwide will need to be repaired.   

According to The Guardian, the hairline crack was found in one of eight bolts in the so-called pickle fork assembly in each of the three planes. 

The pickle fork assembly holds the fuselage to the wings.  

In a U.S. securities filing last week, Boeing acknowledged the possibility that pickle fork inspections could be expanded to even more planes. 

The company said it is continuing to study the cause of the cracking and to consider whether newer planes – those with fewer than 22,600 flights, or takeoff-and-landing cycles – might also need to be checked.

Boeing said it could not yet estimate how much it might have to pay for inspections and repairs.

The hairline cracks on older 737s were discovered as Boeing works to get its newer 737 Max jets back in the air.

Hearings this week in the US Congress produced internal Boeing documents showing that company employees raised concerns about the design of a key flight-control system and the hectic pace of airplane production long before Max jets crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Ryanair announced earlier this week that it is unlikely it will receive its entire delivery of Boeing 737 Max aircraft next year following two fatal crashes resulting in a massive safety review. 

The airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary announced profits of £990 million for the half-year to September.  

He said the first of the airline’s Max aircraft should arrive in Dublin in March 2020. 

He said: ‘we have reduced our expectation of 30 Max aircraft being delivered to us in advance of peak summer 2020 down to 20 aircraft and there is a real risk of none’. 

Europe’s busiest airline has said it would cut flights and close some bases because of delays to deliveries of the plane, which has been grounded globally after two fatal crashes. 

Despite this, the airline’s share price increased by approximately 9 per cent.  

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