- The FAA ordered inspections of some older 737 NG planes last month.
- Airlines grounded planes that had cracked "pickle forks," a part that connects wings to the fuselage.
- The issue is another problem for Boeing, which is in crisis after the 737 Max grounding.
Dozens of older Boeing 737 planes have been grounded worldwide after inspectors found cracks in a part that connects wings to fuselages, the manufacturer said.
Australian carrier Qantas grounded three of its Boeing 737 NG, or next generation, aircraft, it said Friday. "These aircraft have been removed from service for repair," it said in a statement.
Cracks in the so-called pickle forks is the latest problem to hit Boeing, which is mired in crisis over its grounded 737 Max planes after two fatal crashes. The problem does not apply to the 737 Max, which has been grounded since mid-March in the wake of the second crash of the nearly brand-new jets.
The inspections were conducted after Boeing warned about the issue and the Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections within a week for aircraft that had flown more than 30,000 flights and for aircraft between 26,000 and 29,999 cycles within 1,000 flights.
Boeing said more than 1,000 planes met the conditions for the inspections and less than 5% qualified for repairs.
Qantas said it inspected 33 of its 737 NG planes, performing the checks ahead of schedule as a precaution.
Brazilian carrier Gol last month said it grounded 11 of its 737s for repairs after its inspection. Southwest Airlines has taken three of its 737 NGs out of service for repairs after inspections. "We continue to work with Boeing on the upcoming repairs to the three NG aircraft identified and do not have a firm timeline for when the airplanes will be returned to service," said Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King. The carrier has a fleet of some 750 Boeing 737s.
American Airlines and United Airlines are inspecting their older 737 NGs, but have so far not found any problems, the companies said. Delta Air Lines said it hasn't found any structural fatigue in its 737 planes after it took "an extra look during the past few weeks," said spokesman Morgan Durrant.
The repairs cost at least $275,000 for both wings, according to aviation consulting firm IBA.