Turbulence Damage May Be Hidden

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The NTSB is recommending (PDF file) that the FAA order airlines to more thoroughly inspect aircraft that have encountered severe turbulence after the discovery of a composite delamination in an American Airlines Airbus A300 that was missed during the inspection specified in the maintenance manual. The NTSB said the plane, operating as Flight 903, was inspected after a severe upset incident in May 1997 and damage was found in the wings and engine pylons. Repairs were made and the plane returned to service. Five years later, based on the findings from the investigation of the suspected tail failure that brought down American Flight 587 in New York, the tail from the Flight 903 aircraft was put through an ultrasound. One of the attachment lugs was damaged. That plane got a new tail and it might not be the last if the FAA adopts the NTSB's recommendations. The NTSB wants the FAA to require all manufacturers of transport aircraft to review their inspection criteria for planes that have been through severe turbulence and extreme maneuvering. It also recommends the companies set G limits beyond which the aircraft must be inspected with direct supervision by the manufacturer. Any aircraft in service that is suspected to have exceeded those limits must be reported to the FAA, along with the results of the initial inspection, and the manufacturer must make sure the FAA knows about any incident in the future in which the manufacturer has been called in to take part in an inspection.