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Southwest will return its repaired planes to the skies this weekend, ending what has been a long, long ordeal for the carrier. According to BusinessWeek, four of the planes removed from operations will be reinstated Saturday. A fifth plane will be held back for additional, previously scheduled maintenance.
The planes were part of a group of some 70-plus older Boeing 737s flagged for inspection after a hole opened up in the top of an aircraft last week. The five planes held out for repairs were found to have subsurface cracks in the fuselage. These cracks are believed to be the primary factor that led to the hole in the plane.
With the initial repairs finished, the next step is probably a deeper investigation of why Southwest's planes are experiencing these fuselage cracks, and what Southwest can do about it. The prevailing wisdom is that Southwest's flight schedule, which is built around short-haul flights, puts extra stress on its planes' structure. All that ascending and descending exposes the planes to pressure changes at a greater rate than at most other carriers. What, if anything , Southwest or even Boeing could do about this remains to be seen.
Readers, has all this recent news about Southwest made you leery of flying with the carrier, or are you as comfortable with the carrier today as you were before its latest hole-in-the-plane incident?