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Southwest Says Repaired Jets Will Fly By Saturday

Southwest Airlines Co. says four planes being repaired for cracks in their aluminum skin will likely return to service by Saturday.

DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines Co. says four planes being repaired for cracks in their aluminum skin will likely return to service by Saturday.

Southwest said Thursday that a fifth plane with cracks in the skin will be held back for additional, previously scheduled maintenance.

The airline grounded 79 of its older Boeing 737 aircraft for inspections after a hole opened in the roof of a similar plane over Arizona last week, forcing an emergency landing.

Southwest, which has more than 540 planes, said it was operating a normal schedule of about 3,400 flights on Thursday.

Boeing Co. gave Southwest instructions for repairing the cracked planes. The airline's mechanics were replacing an 18-inch section of the roof on each, a job that takes one to two days.

The 15-year-old 737-300 plane with a hole in the roof will be given a temporary repair and flown to a maintenance center for permanent repairs once Boeing gives Southwest instructions for the repairs, the airline said.

After last week's mishap, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to inspect certain models of older 737s that have made at least 30,000 flights for cracking in a section of the roof where overlapping aluminum panels are riveted together, and to inspect them again every 500 flights. Southwest has nearly 80 planes covered by the order.
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