ABC World News reported Saturday that investigators believe that a manufacturing defect may have been “part of the problem” when a five-foot section of the fuselage peeled back on a Southwest Airlines jet April 1.

Reported ABC’s Lisa Stark in her story:

“Investigators are focused on rivets, thousands of metal pins that hold the piece of an airplane together. The concern is that in the area that failed, those pieces were not held together as they should have been.

“At this seam in the fuselage where one piece of metal overlapped another, sources say some of the rivet holes were not sized correctly, that the two pieces were not fastened together tight enough at the seam. Over time, it’s believed, that stressed the area and result in the cracking.”

In addition to the airplane that peeled, Southwest found five other Boeing 737-300s with miniscule cracks, one per airplane, ranging from a tenth of an inch to a quarter inch.

Stark also said the Southwest airplanes were all built around the same time.

Our information is that the jets were built over a three-year period, with airworthiness dates of Sept. 7, 1993; Nov. 18, 1994; February 17, 1995; April 19, 1995; June 13, 1996, and July 24, 1996. If the cracks on all six were the result of the same issue, it appears it wasn’t a one-day or one-month problem.

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