Southwest Airlines Flew Uninspected Planes

I’m trying to figure out exactly what happened with Southwest Airlines flying planes that did not have up-to-date safety inspections.

There seems to be no question that this happened. It also seems that the FAA allowed Southwest to miss inspections. CNN reports:

The [FAA]  inspectors say FAA managers knew about the lapse in safety at Southwest, but decided to allow the airline to conduct the safety checks on a slower schedule because taking "aircraft out of service would have disrupted Southwest Airlines’ flight schedule."

The FAA says it has disciplined at least one supervisor.  Plus, it’s seeking a $10.2 million civil penalty from Southwest. So … is Southwest to blame for what the FAA let it do?

Maybe there’s a valid argument to be made that Southwest should have known better. This is serious stuff. Southwest has an all-737 fleet, and those aircraft need to be inspected for known problems with the rudders and cracking of the fuselage.

But who’s going to fine the FAA?


One thought on “Southwest Airlines Flew Uninspected Planes

  1. Charles

    I think you’re being too nice to Southwest (SWA). The FAA is partly to blame for sure. However, it’s all about the cozy relationship between FAA supervisors and SWA. A great insight into this is a BusinessWeek article with FAA whistleblower Mark Lund. In summary, most of the hard-working FAA inspectors are finding and reporting the safety issues (they cannot give the order to ground planes though, its up to their supervisors). But the FAA Supervisors with the cozy relationship with SWA let them continue to fly.
    From various articles, Bobby Boutris, one of the whistle blowers, found the continued lack of required inspections, reported this to his boss (with the cozy relationship with SWA) who them proceeded to suspend Boutris. Conveniently, SWA handed an “anonymous” complaint about Boutris to his supervisor. Boutris blows the whistle, congress gets involved and then the FAA reopens the investigation to fine SWA $10MM to cover their backside. By the way, the SWA blog is severely moderating everything about Boutris, and the former FAA individual they hired (part of the cozy relationship).


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