Washington : The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had warned of a “cracking” problem on Boeing-777 airplanes, just days before the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing.

However, the FAA “airworthiness directive (AD)”, dated March 5, only applied to Boeing 777-200, -200LR, -300, -300ER, and -777F series airplanes, and not the B777-200ER, which is the model of the missing Malysian Airline flight MH370. The FAA cautioned against a link between the directive and the accident, and Laura Brown, the aviation regulator’s deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, told Xinhua Wednesday “this applies only to US registered aircraft”.

“The civil aviation authorities in other countries usually issue identical or similar directives that apply to aircraft registered in their countries,” Brown added. The FAA said the directive was prompted by a report of cracking in the fuselage skin underneath the satellite communication (SATCOM) antenna adapter.

“We are issuing this AD to detect and correct cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the airplane,” the US aviation regulator said. “This AD requires repetitive inspections of the visible fuselage skin and doubler if installed, for cracking, corrosion, and any indication of contact of a certain fastener to a bonding jumper, and repair if necessary,” it said. In the notice, the FAA said one operator had reported a 16-inch (40.6-cm)) crack under the three-bay SATCOM antenna adapter plate in the crown skin of the fuselage on an airplane that was 14 years old with approximately 14,000 total flight cycles.

Meanwhile, based on this directive, an undergraduate from Stanford University, California, Andrew Aude, 20, a student of computer science, told the Singapore daily that he theorised the missing MH370 might have experienced the same issue leading to a breakdown in all satellite communications. The aircraft also might have experienced a slow decompression leaving the passengers unconscious and pilots disoriented leading to their failure to put on the oxygen masks until it was too late.

 He also said that the Boeing 777 does not deploy the oxygen masks until it reaches an altitude of 13,500 feet. As it was a late night flight, the passengers would already have been sleeping and did not realise the oxygen deprivation.  He added that the autopilot function would have ensured that the plane maintained its course and altitude before crashing into the East China Sea, Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Japan.

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