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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Holes In the Fuselage: How Safe Are Our Airplanes?

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In the past two months, two Boeing 757 commercial aircraft have been grounded after holes and cracks were discovered in the side of the plane. What makes these incidents scarier is the fact that the defects were not found during a routine plane maintenance and inspection, but rather in the air. The most recent incident was an American Airlines jet that lost pressure after a loud noise that sounded like an explosion; the cause was a two-foot hole in the fuselage. Luckily, the plane made a safe emergency landing and no one was injured. A similar incident happened July 2009 when a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was forced to make an emergency landing after a crack between two sheets of aluminum skin turned into a gaping hole in the roof. The Southwest jet was 15 years old; the American Airlines was 16 years old, both considered mid-life by industry standards. Age becomes a concern because of the risk of metal fatigue — cracks that develop from the constant cycle of pressurizing planes for flight, then releasing the pressure. It’s like inflating a balloon, then letting the air out, and repeating the process thousands of times. Overload on the air frame and corrosion due to moisture are also possible causes.

Southwest Airlines paid a $7.5 million fine when the FAA determined that the airline continuously flew planes that were overdue for mandated safety inspections. The crack was nearly 14 inches long and it appeared that the crack had been growing before the hole opened. How could this happen if routine inspections were conducted? If it is common that small cracks can grow as the fuselage expands and contracts from thousands of pressurization cycles, then why aren’t inspections done more regularly and focus on these areas? Are they risking safety for profits?

What are the risks of a similar incident happening again? Experts say this type of failure is uncommon, but three cases in less than a year? Does that seem uncommon to you? Southwest Airlines said it learned from their incident and is taking more aggressive measures to incorporate additional maintenance inspections. Obviously, others did not think it would happen to them. The proper maintenance of an aircraft is essential for the safety of any flight. These types of failures are inexcusable especially if the proper maintenance and inspection checks are thoroughly being conducted.

If you have been involved in an airplane accident where you sustained significant and costly injuries, you may be eligible for compensation. It is imperative that you speak to an attorney to know your rights. If you need assistance locating an attorney in your area, our Lawsuit Financial Attorney Referral Program is a free service.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life, litigation funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.