Cracks found in Boeing 767s raise concerns for El Al fleet

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has found structural cracks in three Boeing 767 airplanes flown by American Airlines in a recent safety inspection. El Al Israel Airlines has eight 767s in its fleet.

The cracks in the American Airlines aircraft raised concerns over safety of the Boeing model, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The report said that FAA officials suspect that the cracks discovered on one particular airplane - in a section connecting the plane's engine to the wing - could cause the engine to separate in flight.

El Al said yesterday that no advisory has been received from Boeing on the matter, adding that it would "follow all possible developments in the matter."

The Israeli airline, which was privatized in 2003, is scheduled to receive its eighth 767 jet shortly, after having leased it abroad.

The same 767 model is also used by Delta and Air Canada on its Israel flights.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FAA said it is working with American Airlines and Boeing to identify the cause of the cracks and is considering issuing a safety directive, which could include more frequent inspections of the suspect parts.

An American Airlines spokesman stated that he does not agree with the FAA view regarding the potential hazard the cracks pose. He added that speculation on the matter is not based on the technical findings.

Boeing's 767 first entered service in 1982 and is considered a relatively old model aircraft.

On his recent trips to France and Canada, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew on a Boeing 767, supplied by El Al.

Arkia does not fly this model of jet.

El Al expanding fleet, but dropping 747-200

In other El Al news, the airline, which is controlled by the Borovich family, is expanding its flight schedule for the summer.

In addition to the leased 767 it is adding to its fleet, it will also be acquiring an additional plane, a Boeing 737, for its new route to Eilat, set to launch in late July.

Meanwhile, El Al removed its last 747-200 from service last week, raising questions as to whether the airline can provide the country with sufficient cargo capacity in the event of an emergency. When the airline was privatized, it was required to maintain a minimum number of airplanes for such emergency missions as flying in ammunition from abroad. That arrangement was based on El Al's fleet of 747-200s.

The airline later struck a deal with the Defense Ministry by which its emergency fleet was limited to three planes. One of El Al's 747-200s was old and taken out of service, a second was put into storage for use during emergencies and now a third 747-200 is being taken out of service.

Previously, the company had replaced a 747-200 with a 747-400 cargo plane, but this aircraft is leased rather than owned by El Al, as the initial agreement with the government required.

The airline declined to comment on the issue for this article.



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