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Air Force checking its 737s in wake of Southwest incident

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN
  • The Air Force has two Boeing 737s
  • They are used for VIP flights
  • Planes have been checked to make sure they are in good condition, spokeswoman says

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. Air Force says the military versions of the Boeing 737 that are used for VIP flights have been re-inspected after part of the ceiling of a similar type of Southwest Airlines plane ripped off in flight, allowing passengers to see the sky and forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing.

The Air Force only flies two 737s. They are based at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington and are for use by distinguished passengers like the first lady, the vice president, the secretary of state or congressional leaders, according to Maj. Shelley Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews.

The Air Force's jets are the 737-700 model, which is much newer than the 737-300 model that was involved in the Southwest Airlines incident. Plus the Air Force's jets have seen far fewer "cycles" than the typical commercial Boeing 737. Those jets have gone through, on average, 35,000 take off and landing cycles. The Air Force's jets each have about 2,000 cycles. Take offs and landings put the most strain on an airplane, which is why number of cycles is a more important gauge of wear and tear on a plane than hours in flight or miles flown.

In spite of the differences between the jet involved in the Southwest case and the Air Force's jets, Lai said the Air Force did check to make sure it's planes are in good condition and it is in touch with Boeing, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to make sure it is in compliance with all inspection and maintenance orders regarding 737s,

No Air Force flights have been delayed or canceled because of the problem with some commercial 737s.