FAA orders inspections for older Boeing 737s

The FAA has ordered more inspections for the most popular commercial airliner, the Boeing 737
CBS News

(CBS News) The Federal Aviation Administration is ordering more than 100 older Boeing 737s to be checked for cracks and holes in the fuselage.

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg spoke to Anthony Mason and Norah O'Donnell about what the FAA is ordering and what prompted them to do it.

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Greenberg called the Boeing 737 a high-cycle airplane, which means they fly a lot of takeoffs and landings. And every time you cycle a plane -- takeoff and land -- the fuselage gets pressurized and depressurized.

"That can lead, if you're not careful, to fatigue cracks and a rupture in the skin," he said. "So what the new FAA directive is calling for are more inspections -- not just visual inspections, but electromagnetic inspections -- because if you don't get these fatigue cracks early enough, they can lead to cracking. And next thing you know, a fracture of the fuselage."

Greenberg said it's not unusual for a 737 to do seven or eight takeoffs and landings a day, whereas a 747 may only do one or two. And he stressed that every aircraft will develop these kinds of cracks, nor is it the first directive the FAA has issued.

"They're not dangerous if you check them frequently," he said. "It's not a question of the age of the plane. It's the cycle versus the inspection regime and that's what the FAA is asking for now -- more repetitive inspections. And I think they're right."

To watch the full interview with Peter Greenberg, click on the video player above.