News Article - March 28, 2008

  The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that a panel from the wing of a US Airways flight from Orlando, Fla., to Philadelphia last week fell off the plane and that the agency is investigating the incident. The aircraft, a Boeing B-757, landed safely following the March 22 flight. Citing "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal was reporting Friday that the airline had "discovered improper maintenance had been performed on the wings of seven of its Boeing 757 planes." A US Airways representative said Friday that the airline will "not be commenting beyond what's in the statement" it issued Thursday. The statement, a brief description of the incident, mentioned nothing about improper maintenance.

   The investigation comes amid concerns about upkeep of the fleets of the nation's airlines. American Airlines Inc. canceled 132 flights, or 6 percent of its schedule, on Thursday as it continued inspecting aircraft under a safety directive from the Federal Aviation Administration. Also on Thursday, Delta Air Lines Inc. canceled 275 flights, or 3 percent of its schedule, to reinspect its MD-88 fleet. Southwest Airlines Co. earlier this month grounded 38 aircraft for reinspections after the FAA fined the airline $10 million for improper safety checks. Regarding the US Airways flight, the NTSB said that a 4-by-5 foot composite panel flew off the trailing edge of the upper side of the left wing at around 9:30 a.m.

   It "broke loose from the aircraft and struck several of the windows towards the rear of the aircraft. The impact caused the outer pane of one window to crack. The inner pane was undamaged and the pressurization of the aircraft was not compromised," the agency said. The NTSB said it is trying to locate the panel and that the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing Commercial Airplanes , the Federal Aviation Administration and US Airways are involved in the investigation. The US Airways statement said the airline "contacted federal authorities immediately after the incident and began inspections of similar aircraft in the US Airways fleet that day." US Airways (NYSE:LCC) is based in Temple, Ariz., and is the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International Airport.

Source -Philadelphia Business Journal