By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
For the first time in a decade, Boeing is the number-one planemaker in the world, selling and delivering more airplanes than Airbus in 2012, according to the Seattle Times. The company delivered about 585 commercial jets over the year, its highest total ever. Orders also were up, including about 1,000 commitments to buy the new fuel-efficient narrow-body jet, the 737 Max, with first deliveries expected in 2017. It's not all good news for Boeing in the new year, however, as the FAA has ordered more inspections of the aging 737 fleet.
The FAA issued an airworthiness directive on Tuesday that requires additional repairs and repetitive inspections to detect and correct fatigue cracking of the fuselage skin. Such cracks "could cause the fuselage skin to fracture and fail, and result in rapid decompression of the airplane," the FAA said. The AD, which takes effect Feb. 6, affects about 109 airplanes, many of them operated by Southwest Airlines, and will cost operators about $5 million. An earlier AD for the fleet was prompted by a fracture in the fuselage of a 737 in July 2009. Another 737 suffered a fracture in flight in July 2011, but that was due to a different issue, investigators found.