AMR Boeing Plane Examined After Hole Opens in Fuselage

An AMR Corp. American Airlines plane that developed a hole in the fuselage while flying on Oct. 26 is being examined by regulators, who will consider possible actions, the Federal Aviation Administration said today.

The one-by-two-foot hole in the Boeing Co. 757-200 opened at 31,000 feet just above the door on the left side near the front of the aircraft, causing a loss of pressure and forcing an emergency landing in Miami, where the flight began at 9:05 p.m., said Les Dorr, an FAA spokesman.

The FAA is working with the National Transportation Safety Board in its investigation “to help determine the cause and see if there is any issue we need to address,” Dorr said in an interview.

The examination by the agencies may lead to aircraft inspections, a step advocated by Boeing in September 2009 after an 18-by-12-inch hole opened on a Southwest Airlines Co. 737 plane and forced an emergency landing two months earlier.

An investigation of the American incident must be completed “before we can determine what action might be necessary,” said Julie O’Donnell, a Boeing spokeswoman.

The FAA in January required airlines to check for cracks on 135 Boeing 737-300s, -400s and -500s in the U.S. The NTSB determined in August that metal fatigue caused the Southwest plane fuselage to rip at 35,000 feet.

Cockpit Recorder

In the American incident, the NTSB removed the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders for examination and probably will interview crew members, said Keith Holloway, a board spokesman.

The plane, headed for Boston when the fuselage hole opened, is grounded while the NTSB investigates, Holloway said. The NTSB is an independent federal agency that probes aviation accidents and makes safety recommendations.

Oxygen masks deployed on the plane with 160 passengers and crew, and the pilots decided to return to Miami after descending to a lower altitude, American said today in a statement.

In 1988, an Aloha Airlines flight attendant was sucked out of a Boeing 737 when an 18-foot section of fuselage was torn away, forcing an emergency landing on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The NTSB later concluded that metal fatigue and inspection deficiencies, exacerbated by frequent pressurization for Aloha’s short-haul flights, led to failure of bonding of joints in the aircraft, causing “premature fatigue cracking.”

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