IBA Insights

Pickle Fork Remedial Work Could Cost $275,000 per aircraft, October 2019

We are being asked lots of questions about the recent Airworthiness Directive affecting Boeing 737NG variants -600, 700, 800, 900 and 900ER and the potential impact from the remedial works if the pickle forks are found to be cracked. It’s been reported that numerous aircraft have been grounded following inspections that revealed cracks on the pickle fork, these aircraft will remain on the ground until either the work is done or depending on the age and value, they may be considered for other mid-life options.

Our technical team have estimated the cost of repair outside of a planned heavy check to be US$25K per replacement kit and 1,800 labour hours for one side of the aircraft. If both sides need attention an additional premium will apply. With this level of cost, it’s possible that cost sharing clauses could be triggered in some lease agreements, thresholds vary from US$50K to US$275K, so airlines and lessors will be blowing the dust of the lease contracts to see if they will be impacted.

So how many aircraft will need the inspection? 

The AD will impact all 737NG aircraft with 22,600 cycles plus, which based on extrapolated IBA.iQ data, we estimate this to affect most 737NG aircraft aged 11 years and upwards. From this calculation, the number of aircraft currently requiring inspections will be in the region of 2,500 – some will have been inspected already if they have 30,000 cycles and the remaining aircraft will be checked within 1,000 cycles. The chart below illustrates the large numbers of younger aircraft that will at some point require an inspection.

Which operators will be impacted the most?

With our iQ Fleet data, if we look at the top 737NG operators, Southwest, United Airlines, Ryanair, American Airlines and Delta top the bill. Operating the largest fleets, these operators are therefore potentially more exposed now and in the future when inspections are needed, but of course only if cracks in the pickle forks are found.


Our advisory and technical teams are on hand if more information on this topic is useful, please get in touch with mikeyeomans@iba.aero or drop me a line for a chat.

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