WASHINGTON – Safety regulators issued an emergency order directing airlines to inspect and if necessary replace a critical engine part on popular Boeing 737 jets after four reports of engines shutting down during flights.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that its order affected about 2,000 twin-engine passenger jets in the United States.
The FAA said operators must inspect any 737 that has been parked for at least seven days or been flown fewer than 11 times since being returned to service. That's because of reports that certain engine valves can become stuck in the open position.
Corrosion of the valves on both engines could lead to a complete loss of power without the ability to restart the engines, forcing pilots to land somewhere other than an airport, the FAA said in the order, dated Thursday.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. said that with planes being stored or used less often during the coronavirus pandemic, “the valve can be more susceptible to corrosion.” The company said it is providing inspection and parts-replacement help to airplane owners.
Major airlines typically fly their planes several times a day. However, they parked hundreds of planes when the coronavirus pandemic triggered a collapse in air travel this spring and are bringing some of those planes back as passenger traffic has picked up slightly.
The FAA did not provide details about the four cases of engine shutdowns.
Alaska Airlines said one occurred on a July 15 flight from Seattle to Austin, Texas, and the plane landed without incident. Alaska said six of its planes need inspections, which have already begun.