Wednesday March 12, 2014
02:43 PM GMT+8

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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. — The Malay Mail OnlineMalaysia Airlines Flight MH370. — The Malay Mail OnlineKUALA LUMPUR, March 12 — US air transport officials had warned over five months ago of a potential weakness in Boeing 777s worldwide that could pose safety risks to the aircraft if left unchecked.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington reported in September last year that cracks and corrosion were discovered in the fuselage skin of a number of Boeing 777s aged between six and 16 years old.

Such cracks, the regulator warned, could lead to rapid decompression and “loss of structural integrity of the airplane”.

Subsequent to the discovery, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on September 26, approximately five months before MH370s’s disappearance, asking that additional checks on the Boeing 777 fleet worldwide be conducted during scheduled maintenance .

“This proposed AD would require repetitive inspections of the visible fuselage skin and doubler if installed, for cracking, corrosion, and any indication of contact of a certain fastener to a bonding jumper, and repair if necessary,” the transport authority wrote in the AD found online.

“We are proposing this AD to detect and correct cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the airplane.”

In the Gallery


  • Military personnel look out of a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C130 transport plane as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the South China Sea, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Women leave messages of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A crew member checking a map on-board a Vietnamese Air Force Russian-made MI-171 helicopter during a search flight some 200km over the southern Vietnamese waters off Phu Quoc island on March 12, 2014. ― AFP pic

  • Relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane wait on a bus after picking up their Malaysian visas at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 12, 2014. ― AFP pic

  • A member of the military personnel looks out of a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C130 transport plane during a search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the South China Sea, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A woman writes messages of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane pick up their Malaysian visas at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 12, 2014. ― AFP pic

  • Military personnel look out of a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C130 transport plane as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the South China Sea, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Zamani Zakaria, 56, the father of a passenger on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane, speaks to journalists at a hotel where family members of those aboard the flight are being put up, in Putrajaya, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Notes from a meeting with officials of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation and the Chinese joint working group after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 12, 2014.

  • A family member of a passenger on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane cries as she enters a hotel where family members of those aboard the flight are being put up, in Putrajaya, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Family members of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave a rest area after a morning meeting at Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A tourist from Vietnam writes a message expressing hope for family members and those on-board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A woman writes a message of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 on a banner at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 12, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A member of Philippine Air Force Search and Rescue team aboard a C130 military plane searches for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on western Philippine sea March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Ibrahim Mat Zin (centre), a local well-known ‘bomoh’, holds two coconuts as he performs a ritual to help finding the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Deputy Commander of Vietnam 918 Air Brigade Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Tri Thuc speaks with the media after a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at a military airport in Ho Chi Minh City March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein answers questions next to Chief of Armed Forces General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • China’s ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang arrives at Cyberview Lodge in Cyberjaya to visit the family members of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 12, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • Members of a Search and Rescue ship look at a map of the Straits of Malacca as they hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, in the Malacca Strait March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Members of a Search and Rescue ship use binoculars to look for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, in the Straits of Malacca March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Representatives from the Taoist, Muslim and Buddhist religions sit next to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup during an interfaith prayer called ‘Hope’ for the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpur March 12, 2014. — Reuters pic

The FAA explained that the first crack was discovered on a 14-year-old plane with some 14,000 total flight cycles by an operator during a maintenance planning data inspection.

The crack was reportedly 16 inches long and spotted on the fuselage skin under the three-bay satellite communication (SATCOM) antenna adapter plate.

“Subsequent to this crack finding, the same operator inspected 42 other airplanes that are between 6 and 16-years-old and found some local corrosion, but no other cracking,” the FAA said.

“We are proposing this AD because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design,” it added.

According to a report on UK’s The Telegraph, such inspection work would cost the airlines US$3,060 (RM10,000).

The missing MH370 is a Boeing 777-2H6ER aircraft that was purchased in 2002, bearing the registration number 9M-MRO.

The Boeing was built in April 2002 and delivered to MAS on May 31, 2002, according to the database in Aviation Week, a global aviation industry service provider, making it nearly 12 years old.

It clocked 53,465.21 hours of flight and 7,525 cycles before it went missing.

According to MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the aircraft underwent routine maintenance 10 days before it was reported missing last Saturday and there were no issues reported on the health of the aircraft.

He said the check was conducted on February 23 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) hangar and the next scheduled maintenance was due on June 19.

Experts have said the Boeing 777 aircraft has a near flawless record and is one of the safest planes to fly.

Ahmad has also stood by the safety of the Boeing 777 fleet, calling it a “very reliable” aircraft for the airline.

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