FAA orders inspection of Boeing 737 plane tails

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered an inspection of more than 1,000 U.S.-registered Boeing 737 jets to examine a potentially faulty part on the plane tail, which it said could cause pilots to lose control of the aircraft if it failed.

The airworthiness directive (AD) issued by the FAA calls on airlines and other operators to replace fixing pins with improved pins following concerns over how their protective surface coating was applied. The rule applies to 1050 of Boeing's 737 jets flown by U.S. carriers and takes effect May 20.

Boeing said the rule had been in the works over the past year, and was not linked to any incident involving the planes. Such safety directives are common in the aircraft industry and do not require planes to be grounded.

"We are issuing this AD to prevent premature failure of the attach pins, which could cause reduced structural integrity of the horizontal stabilizer to fuselage attachment, resulting in loss of control of the airplane," the FAA said in the directive issued on Monday.

Boeing noticed that the finish had degraded on some recently installed attachment pins, and alerted plane owners to it last April. The FAA directive requires inspection of the pin after 56,000 flights. None of the planes affected have more than 40,000 flights, Boeing said.

The FAA said the inspection was "prompted by reports of an incorrect procedure used to apply the wear and corrosion protective surface coating to attach pins of the horizontal stabilizer rear spar."

FAA said its directive may cost up to $10.1 million across the U.S. fleet, or up to $9,627 per aircraft. It applies to models including 737-600, 737-700, 737-700C, 737-800, 737-900, and 737-900ER series aircraft.

The airworthiness directive was posted on the website of Federal Register (http://link.reuters.com/pyb47t) and was first reported by the Wall Street Journal late on Sunday.

In a separate directive, the FAA ordered inspections of the fuel tanks of more than 600 Boeing 757 planes to ensure that secondary vapor barriers are in proper condition. If the barrier failed, it could allow fuel or fumes into the cabin where they could be ignited, "which would result in a fire or an explosion," the FAA said. The new inspection rule also takes effect May 20.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Andrew Hay)