Major fracture found in fuselage of China Airlines jet at Japanese airport

Airport workers in western Japan found a 70-cm (28-inch) fracture in the fuselage of a China Airlines Boeing 737-800 on Thursday 20 September, just weeks after a similar plane flown by same airline burst into flames at another Japanese airport.

China Airlines maintenance workers discovered the hairline crack near the tail of the jet during a routine post-flight inspection on Thursday afternoon at Saga airport, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. The plane did not have any problems during its flight from Taipei.

The fracture was found about 30 minutes before the plane's scheduled departure for a return trip to Taiwan's capital. The airline sent another plane from Taipei to pick up the flight's 49 passengers, who left on Thursday evening, nearly five-and-a-half hours behind schedule.

A team of inspectors and maintenance workers were dispatched from Taiwan on Friday 21 September. Japanese aviation officials also launched an investigation.

On 20 August, a China Airlines Boeing 737-800 that had just landed at Okinawa's Naha airport exploded in a fireball at a gate, just seconds after all 157 passengers and eight crew were safely evacuated. (See: Loose bolt confirmed as cause of China Airlines plane explosion in Okinawa)

Investigators found a bolt on the right wing slat had come loose and pierced a fuel tank, causing fuel to gush out and catch fire. The incident was a blow to the Taiwanese airline, which has been struggling with its poor safety record.