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Boe­ing an­nounced Thurs­day that dozens of its pop­u­lar 737NG planes had been taken out of ser­vice after cracks in them were de­tected, mark­ing an­other set­back for the cri­sis-stricken U.S. air­craft maker.

NEW YORK (AFP) — Boe­ing an­nounced Thurs­day that dozens of its pop­u­lar 737NG planes had been taken out of ser­vice after cracks in them were de­tected, mark­ing an­other set­back for the cri­sis-stricken U.S. air­craft maker.

The new dif­fi­cul­ties com­pound the trou­bles fac­ing the U.S. man­u­fac­turer, which has faced tum­bling prof­its, fed­eral scru­tiny and calls for its CEO to re­sign after deadly crashes in­volv­ing the 737 MAX, the suc­ces­sor air­craft for the 737NG.

Aus­tralian na­tional car­rier Qan­tas said it had found cracks in three of its 737NGs and re­moved them from ser­vice for re­pairs, after in­spect­ing 33 jets which had flown more than 22,600 times — the thresh­old set by U.S. reg­u­la­tors for such in­spec­tions.

Nine of the planes were grounded in South Korea this month, in­clud­ing five op­er­ated by Korean Air, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties in Seoul. U.S. car­rier South­west Air­lines has taken three planes out of ser­vice due to the prob­lem.

Sev­eral other lead­ing car­ri­ers said in­spec­tions had not turned up cracks on their air­craft.

Boe­ing had pre­vi­ously re­ported a prob­lem with the model’s “pickle fork” — a part which helps bind the wing to the fuse­lage.

U.S. reg­u­la­tors ear­lier this month or­dered in­spec­tions of older NG air­craft, di­rect­ing that planes with more fly­ing hours to be checked within seven days.

A Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman said op­er­a­tors could not fly the planes un­til the is­sue was ad­dressed.

A Boe­ing spokesper­son on Thurs­day told AFP in Syd­ney that fewer than five per­cent of 1,000 planes had cracks de­tected and were grounded for re­pair.

Boe­ing and Qan­tas stressed trav­el­ers should not be con­cerned.

“We would never fly an air­craft that wasn’t safe,” said An­drew David, the CEO of Qan­tas Do­mes­tic, adding that the air­line con­sid­ered the 737NGs to be “very re­li­able.”

“Even where th­ese hair­line cracks are present they’re not an im­me­di­ate risk, which is clear from the fact the checks were not re­quired for at least seven months.”

David said the three grounded 737s had flown about 27,000 times and that other air­craft with the same num­ber of flights showed no prob­lems.

Stephen Fankhauser, an avi­a­tion ex­pert at Aus­tralia’s Swinburne Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, said that the parts were de­signed so the “struc­ture can tol­er­ate some level of dam­age or degra­da­tion.”

“The in­spec­tion pe­riod is set to en­sure the cracks do not con­tinue to grow to a dan­ger­ous length and then sig­nif­i­cantly com­pro­mise the strength of the air­frame,” he said.

EPA-Yon­hap

A Qan­tas Boe­ing 737-800 air­craft is seen at Syd­ney Do­mes­tic Air­port, Aus­tralia, in this Nov. 16, 2015 file photo. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, Qan­tas air­lines is ground­ing one of their 737 planes in or­der to in­spect crack­ing near the wing.

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