Last updated: 09:28 AM ET, Wed August 19 2015

Southwest Airlines Once Again Facing FAA Fine

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | August 19, 2015

Southwest Airlines Once Again Facing FAA Fine

Southwest Airlines is looking at yet another Federal Aviation Administration fine related to aircraft repair, this one for $325,000 — bringing its total to a whopping $12 million in fines over the last two years.

The Dallas Morning News reported that this latest miscue is over a plane that flew too long after it received temporary repairs.

Apparently, an FAA inspector performed a regular inspection on a Southwest Boeing 737 and found that the Dallas-based airline had reported the repair as permanent when it was only temporary. The damaged part was originally discovered in 2002 and Southwest was required to inspect the temporary repair every 4,000 flights and complete a permanent repair within 24,000 flights.

Instead, the FAA found that the aircraft had taken 24,831 flights.

Spokesperson Brad Hawkins of Southwest Airlines told the Morning News: “Southwest was notified of the proposed penalty via a letter from the FAA dated July 9, 2015. The proposed penalty pertains to an allegation that Southwest Airlines failed to track a condition involving a single aircraft dating back to 2002. Southwest discovered the potential deficiency during a maintenance inspection performed in July 2014, and all issues were promptly addressed to the satisfaction of the FAA before the aircraft was returned to revenue service.

"There is no impact to any other aircraft in our fleet. Safety is the highest priority at Southwest, and we strive always toward full compliance with established and approved maintenance processes and procedures. Southwest has requested a meeting with the FAA to discuss the proposed penalty.”

They have much to talk about.

Southwest is facing $328,550 in fines stemming from cases dating back to 2013 — one in which the FAA says Southwest failed to do a mandatory check for damage and to make sure depleted oxygen bottles were replaced after an aircraft lost cabin pressure during a flight, and the other on Southwest subsidiary AirTran, which involved mechanics improperly deferring repairs on leaking air conditioning units.

In the first instance, the FAA alleged Southwest continued to fly the plane in question 123 more times between the date of the incident on May 13, 2013 and the time it completed the inspection on June 3 of that year.

In the second case, “The FAA alleges that the airline failed to fully comply with its FAA-approved maintenance procedures, which describe in detail how to make repairs and then accurately account for them in the aircraft’s logbooks. The FAA further alleges that during the troubleshooting process, mechanics deferred making the repairs by improperly applying an MEL exemption to this particular situation. The aircraft was flown on several passenger-carrying flights before the issue was resolved.”

Southwest is in court with the FAA over the $12 million maintenance-related fine from last year.

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