Earlier this month a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 took off from Phoenix en route to Sacramento. A panel in the roof blew out and the plane made an emergency landing at Yuma. Southwest Airlines Flight 812
As you can see from the report, the plane was described as a Boeing 737-300, an early and reliable version of the type, also known as the Classic series. This despite photos of the actual plane that showed it with the upright winglets on the wings, a modification standard on the radically-different modernized version known as the 737 NG, for Next Generation. Winglets, however, have been added to some Classic series planes for fuel savings and stability improvement, so I incorrectly assumed the Southwest description was accurate, if puzzling.
Al-Jazeera produced a hair-raising documentary on the 737 Next Generation series based on warnings by Boeing whistleblowers whose careers were ruined when they desperately attempted to warn the public about the illegal methods used by a Boeing subcontractor to manufacture the precise components of the Next Generation fuselage, which have resulted in at least three fatal accidents. The whistleblowers took their findings to the US Justice Department when Boeing itself told them to shut up. The subcontractor, AHF Ducommon in Gardena, California, had actually threatened to have the women shot if they persisted with their questions and complaints. The Justice Department betrayed the women and this led to their being fired and intimidated by Boeing.
On a wing and a prayer
And so, despite the Southwest Airlines near-disaster that appeared to be caused by the illegal Ducommon process described in the al-Jazeera report, the papers were saying that the plane in question was a 737-300, which made no sense. But today, we have the preliminary findings
NTBS: Loose rivets found in plane with hole
of the NTSB, which say that the planes in question were built 15 years ago. 1996 was the first year of the 737 Next Generation planes!
If anyone is still flying in Boeing 737s today despite the TSA, I recommend asking your airline what equipment is being used. The Classic series is fine, which would be 737-300 to 600. But if they say 737-700 or higher, or 737 NG, then don’t get in it. 700 or higher indicates the Next Generation version, which is a crash waiting to happen, as has already happened and, according to the whistleblowers, will keep happening until the planes are withdrawn from service. There is no way to know which one these fifteen hundred planes of the NG series was assembled legally or illegally, since Boeing assemblers had to force the Ducommon fuselage sections together and made cosmetic changes to conceal their illegal work.
Today, Soutwest Airlines describes Flight 812 thus:
Flight Status for WN 812
They are flying the 737-700 (Next Generation) today, just as they were on April 1, despite their description of it that day as a Classic 300.