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13 October 2009

Loose and Missing Screws on a Continental Airlines 737 Flying from Newark to Austin in September 2009

Back in August, the AirSafe News had a story about a Jat Airways 737 flying with numerous loose screws. One of this site's readers claims to have been an eyewitness to another loose screw event, this time involving a Continental Airlines 737. The first photo shows the right engine and strut, and in the second closeup picture, one screw appears to be completely missing and another appears to be loose.

The witness, who goes by the name conscious_consumer, in the blog about this event, describes being on Continental Airlines Flight 350 (Newark, NJ to Austin, TX) and seeing loose and missing screws on part of the engine strut. While no date was given in the blog, the two photos have a date stamp of 28 September 2009.

Seeing something like this may make any passenger uncomfortable, as the following description of the event from conscious_consumer shows:

I was aboard Continental flight 350 EWR – AUS @ 7:15AM EST) and looked out of my window and realized that something about the mounting (I am sure it’s not the proper technical term but I hope I’ll get my point across using it) of the engine caught my eye. It looked like one of the screws was not all the way in, creating an odd looking shadow – which was catching my attention. When I took a closer glance, I noticed that, right below the odd looking screw, an entire screw appeared to be missing.

Key Questions

Given the potential seriousness of these loose and missing screws, the kinds of questions posed by the News in its earlier story about Jat Airways should be asked again:

- Were the flight crew or maintenance crew aware of the loose and missing screws before the flight?

- Did the maintenance and flight crews follow procedures with respect to the missing and loose screws?

- Are the airline's procedures consistent with Boeing's recommended procedures for this model of the 737?

- Are the airline's procedures consistent with FAA regulations?

- How many flights did this aircraft make before the condition was corrected?

- Are missing screws a common occurrence with aircraft in the Continental fleet?

Comments and Feedback
The News would like to ask its readers for feedback, especially from pilots, maintenance technicians, and airline safety professionals, about this particular event. Any information or evidence that would confirm that this event occurred would be especially welcome. Feel free to leave comments on this site, or to contact at

You can also file an official report with the following organizations:

FAA Aviation Safety Hotline - You can call the 24-hour hotline at 800.255.1111 or fill out the online form at for issues related to improper maintenance activities, aircraft incidents, bogus parts, and violations of FAA regulations.

NASA Confidential Reports - Pilots, cabin crew, maintenance crew, and other aviation professions with direct knowledge of this issue can confidentially send a report to NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).


  1. Why is this even "news"? I'm willing to bet there is more than one airliner flying over the 48 states right now that have loose or missing screws. During a preflight walkaround, a cockpit crewmember cannot see the top of the engine pylon. Also, it is not normal practice for maintainence to inspect the aircraft between flights unless there is a good reason. If a passenger or Flight Attendant reports a loose screw to cockpit, then maint. will be notified. There are countless screws on most Boeing jets,and it is not unusual to find them missing or loose during preflight. They are fixed before we fly.

  2. This is actually my post and you are correct, the date was 9/28; this was flight CO 350 from EWR to AUS. Below is the official response I received from Continental (I removed the parts pertaining to my private information but have not altered actual verbiage in any way):

    From: []
    Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 3:47 PM
    To: Name removed
    Subject: Follow-up Response

    Dear Mr. name removed:

    Thank you again for your patience while I looked into your concerns regarding flight 350 on September 28th, 2009. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

    I was pleased to read that both your Seattle and Austin trips were pretty good and for the most part was business as usual. As we have discussed in the past, we are keenly aware of how instances of negative customer service can have an adverse affect on our customers’ overall assessment of our airline. I hope that these positive experiences have shown you that we do value both you and your business.

    Based on your email, I understand that you were also concerned about the aircraft on your flight to Austin. Please know that safety is our foremost priority. We maintain an excellent safety record by, among other things, adhering to regularly-scheduled and comprehensive maintenance schedules. We separate ourselves from our competitors by operating one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the industry and therefore are less likely to be affected by age-related issues.

    I assure you that your concerns have not gone unnoticed. I have submitted your concerns to the appropriate senior management and it has been determined that the condition of the aircraft did not present a danger to the airworthiness of the aircraft. Regardless, I understand that this situation was upsetting to you and I sincerely apologize.

    Name removed, comments from our passengers regarding our products and services are both encouraged and appreciated. Therefore, thank you again for sharing your comments. Your continued patronage is genuinely appreciated.

    Kindest Regards,

    Name removed
    Customer Care Manager
    Case ID 4214855

    TRACKING NUMBER: A00005218368-00032128083

  3. replace the missing screw, write it up and MEL,or put on approved carry over list of non airworthiness items if you have approval, if a screw can't be installed for some reason at least write it up so it can be fixed at heavy check. The theory is if you let a screw go, in six months there will be a lot more missing cause folks at other station won't care either.
    I learned that from a very good 727 fleet DOM.