Ryanair quietly grounded Boeing 737 planes over 'pickle fork' cracking, becoming the latest airline to act on the problem

Alexandra Ma
boeing 737 800 ryanair.
  • Multiple airlines around the world have grounded Boeing 737 Next Generation planes in recent weeks after the manufacturer announced a cracking problem in the planes' pickle forks.
  • The pickle fork is the structure that connects the plane body, wing, and landing gear.
  • Ryanair quietly grounded at least three 737NG planes, The Guardian reported, despite saying last week that it doesn't expect the cracking issue to be a problem for its operations.
  • Ryanair appeared to confirm that some planes had been grounded in a statement to Business Insider, saying that it had made a "tiny number (less than 5%) of findings" in its planes.
  • Ryanair's profits have been affected by Boeing's ongoing crises, which include a worldwide grounding of its 737 Max jets following two fatal crashes.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Ryanair has become the latest airline to ground the Boeing 737 due to cracks found in the planes, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

The Irish budget airline grounded at least three Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG) planes due to fissures in the "pickle fork," the newspaper's Naaman Zhou reported, referring to a commonly used name for the structure that connects the plane body, wing, and landing gear.

Multiple airlines have grounded Boeing 737NG planes in recent weeks, after Boeing announced the cracking problem in the 737NG, prompting the US Federal Aviation Administration to instruct airlines that fly the planes to inspect them.

Boeing 737 ng

REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight

Ryanair had not disclosed the cracks or grounding until The Guardian published its story. The airline, which has more than 400 737NGs in service, told The Irish Times last week that it was unlikely the cracking issue would impact operations or fleet availability.

In a Wednesday statement to Business Insider, Ryanair appeared to confirm the grounding of three planes, but said it would not affect its operating fleet or flight schedules.

"This tiny number (less than 5%) of findings would not affect either Ryanair's operating fleet or flights, because the airline has moved to its winter schedule from the end of October," the statement said, adding that Boeing is currently repairing planes for Ryanair.

"Ryanair will continue to inspect the remainder of its fleet, in full compliance with the Airworthiness Directive, and we are confident that the tiny number of pickle fork cracks, if any, will not affect either Ryanair's fleet, its flights, or its schedules."

The statement also called The Guardian's report "rubbish" and accused it of an "attempt to misreport the story," but did not say what details in the report the company disagrees with.

Business Insider has requested clarification from Ryanair, but has not heard back from the airline at the time of publication.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Up to 50 737NG planes around the world have been grounded so far, Agence France-Presse reported last week, with Qantas being the last airline to do so publicly. Thousands of 737NG planes are in service globally.

Experts previously said that the presence of a pickle fork crack "does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft," Australia's ABC News reported.

Boeing has not yet responded to Business Insider's request for comment on the cracking issue.

FILE PHOTO: Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

Reuters

Boeing currently faces crises on multiple fronts.

Its 737 Max planes remain grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes by the aircraft within six months of each other, both of which are believed to have been caused by an internal software malfunction that employees had previously complained about.

A former quality-control engineer has also told the BBC, in a report published Wednesday, that he found faulty emergency oxygen bottles on the 787 Dreamliner, but that the company stonewalled his request for further investigations.

Ryanair has previously warned that its profits might get hammered by Boeing's troubles. In July, the airline said the grounding of the 737 Max means it might carry fewer passengers and may even closer some of its airport bases.

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