More Cracks Found In Boeing 737NG “Pickle Forks”


Both Qantas Airways and Southwest Airlines are tightening their inspection protocols to look for cracks in key structural members of the Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. As we previously reported, operators were finding cracks in the so-called pickle fork, a structural member that joins the wing and fuselage of the 737, well short of the design life of the component. Designed for 90,000 cycles, some operators were finding cracks in aircraft with 35,000 cycles.

Now, Qantas and Southwest have found NGs with just fewer than 27,000 cycles to exhibit cracking of the pickle fork. Qantas will begin inspecting its 33 NGs with more than 22,600 cycles. Southwest’s inspections revealed an aircraft with cracks at 28,500 cycles, according to Reuters, and will expand its inspections to all of its NG fleet. Reuters is reporting that Southwest has already pulled three 737s from service to repair the component. 

The current Airworthiness Directive (AD 2019-20-02), which became effective on Oct. 3, requires inspections of aircraft “prior to the accumulation of 30,000 total flight cycles, or within 7 days after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later.” Or, “prior to the accumulation of 22,600 total flight cycles, or within 1,000 flight cycles after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later.”

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. “ This AD also requires repair of all cracking using a method approved by the FAA or The Boeing Company Organization Designation Authorization (ODA). This AD also requires sending a report of all results of the initial inspection to Boeing.”

    Hmm, ODA?

      • Ideally, Boeing would publish the repair procedure in a standard repair manual or in a service letter or service bulletin.

        But an operator (airlines have engineering departments too) could devise a repair and get it approved by the FAA or a DER.

        So you’re right, the FAA never authors a repair procedure. They review and approve such things.