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Friday
Apr222011

Southwest Airlines Flight 812 Default May Have Been in Manufacturing Process

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- ABC News has learned the problem that ripped a hole in the roof of a Southwest Airlines jet on April 1, may have started way back on the assembly line more than a decade ago.

After the incident, investigators found widespread cracking in the metal, the initial thought -- metal fatigue, a result of the plane's 39-thousand takeoffs and landings. But now it appears it could be a problem with production.

The plane was manufactured in 1996 and investigators are focused on rivets, thousands of metal pins that hold the pieces of an airplane together. The concern is that, in the area that failed, those pieces were not held together as they should have been. Sources say some of the rivet holes were not sized correctly and that the two pieces were not fastened together tight enough at the seam. Over time it's believed that stressed the area and resulted in the cracking.

Even as the investigation continues, the damaged plane has been patched and it's expected to go back into service.

After this incident, Boeing ordered inspections of the nearly 600 similar 737's worldwide, but only 190 were required to have inspections right away. Boeing tells ABC News Friday that 75 percent of those have been looked at and only five percent of all Southwest jets were found to have slight cracks. Sources say most of those five planes were built about the same time as the aircraft that came apart.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 







ABC News Radio