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Air Nippon 737 found missing critical washer

Date Posted: 2007-09-01

An emergency inspection of Boeing 737-800 and 737-700 jetliners turned up a missing wing slat part, a washer, on an Air Nippon 737-700.
The inspections were directed by the Transport Ministry in the aftermath of an August 20th fire and explosion of a China Airlines 737-800 at Naha International Airport. The order covered 23 newer model 737 aircraft flown by Japanís three major airlines.
Atsushi Shimamura, speaking for the Transport Ministry, said an inspection revealed a missing washer on a wing slat of the Air Nippon plane. He said a missing washer could cause a bolt to shake loose, but donít know yet why it was missing. Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba told reporters itís possible the washer wasnít installed when the plane was manufactured. ďThis plane was almost new, and we suspect judging from the fact it was missing and not found nearby, it could have happened during the manufacturing process.Ē
A bolt on the right wing slat of the China Airlines plane was discovered by investigators to have come loose, piercing a fuel tank. They say the tank then discharged fuel that caught fire. Investigators say they found three parts, including the bolt and washer, near the fuel tank at the accident scene. The plane exploded only minutes after landing at Naha on a flight from Taipei. The 165 aboard escaped without injury only moments before the jet exploded.
Boeing had no comment on the finding, saying only that it is studying the aircraft design and production procedures to see if they could determine how it happened. The bolt is thought to have broken loose as the wing slat was being retracted after landing, and while it was taxiing to a parking slot in front of the international terminal.
Japanís other 22 Boeing 737-800 and 737-700 aircraft owned by Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Skymark were inspected, and found to be in good condition.

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