American Airlines checking 87 757s

McClatchy Newspapers

FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines is inspecting two-thirds of its Boeing 757 fleet following an October incident where a hole ripped open on one of its aircraft flying from Miami to Boston.

The Fort Worth-based carrier is in the process of checking 87 of its 124 Boeing 757 aircraft based on a service bulletin issued by Boeing, said American spokesman Tim Smith. Close to half of the inspections have been completed.

“We have been accomplishing the inspections expeditiously as the aircraft flow through our maintenance facilities for other routine maintenance,” Smith said. “There is nothing we can report at this time as to any findings related to the inspections.”

On Oct. 26, a 1-by-2-foot hole in a Boeing 757-200 aircraft opened at 31,000 feet just above the passenger loading door on the left side near the front of the aircraft. That caused the cabin to lose pressure and forced an emergency landing in Miami.

Following the incident, the plane was grounded as inspectors worked to determine the cause of the hole and if metal fatigue was a possible culprit.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to make the Boeing service bulletin inspections mandatory soon, and is preparing an airworthiness directive for operators of the Boeing 757 aircraft.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported the additional inspections were underway and said government investigators have been looking at the American incident, as well as cracks found on a United Airlines Boeing 757 the same month.

Earlier this year, the FAA required airlines to check for cracks in 135 Boeing 737s after government safety inspectors determined that metal fatigue had caused a Southwest plane’s fuselage to rip at 35,000 feet in July 2009.