Update: This report was written before Boeing disclosed that the airworthiness directive in question DID NOT apply to the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
Apart from the China News claim of an intercepted emergency call from MH370, this article is now displayed only for archival reasons
In what might have been a critical issue in the disappearance of MH370, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya could not last night (12 March) confirm that a vital airworthiness directive concerning metal fatigue cracks had been carried out on the missing Boeing 777-200.
The directive which was first proposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration last year after a substantial crack was found in the skin of the outer fuselage of a 16 year old earlier model 777 underneath a communications satellite antenna.
At that time the FAA told airlines with older 777s, that the proposed airworthiness directive “would require repetitive inspections of the visible fuselage skin and doubler if installed, for cracking, corrosion, and any indication of contact of a certain fastener to a bonding jumper, and repair if necessary. We are proposing this AD to detect and correct cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the airplane.’’
The FAA did not make the final order effective until 18 February, five days before the older model Malaysia Airlines 777 underwent an A check in an engineering facility at Auckland.
The question asked of Malaysia Airlines at the day five MH370 media update was pertinent, because if undetected and unrepaired, and if it had been applicable it could have caused an affected jet to slowly depressurize, which as the technical forum Pprune has already discussed, could lead to pilot incapacitation.
While this scenario advanced on Pprune.org ignored the opportunity pilots would have to resort to emergency oxygen supplies, it could if everything went wrong, lead to a crash after consciousness and control was lost.
The possibility that such an undetected and unrepaired flaw might have brought down MH370 seems remote and is now known not to have applied to it anyhow.
However in a disturbing report in the The China Times, later last Saturday, when MH370 disappeared early in its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, its web site claimed that US military bases in Thailand had overheard an emergency transmission from the jet claiming the cabin ‘faced disintegration’ and an emergency landing was being sought.
The report is in Chinese here, and the Google translation is almost unintelligible, as auto translations often are.
Were it not for the airworthiness directive concerning possible fuselage failure points on older 777s, it would probably never have been given a second glance.