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Southwest Has to Ground 50 More Planes

Southwest has already taken a hard hit since the grounding of all 34 of its 737-800 MAX aircraft, but a recent threat from the FAA may have just made matters worse.

A string of concerns over Southwest’s maintenance records and the safety standards of used aircraft bought from foreign carriers has sparked action from the FAA. Since 2013, 88 planes in the airline’s fleet have been purchased from foreign carriers, many of which had unreliable maintenance records. Those aircraft were inspected and signed off by maintenance contractors and certified to fly passengers. However in summer 2018, Southwest reported that “a small number of repairs that had been performed but not properly classified” were found on these aircraft. Those repairs were actually 360 repairs undocumented by the contractors that Southwest was not aware of. Southwest has tried to explain the findings as a documentation issue rather than a safety issue, stating inspections to date “did not stem from any suspected safety concerns with the aircraft but were an effort to reconcile and validate records and previous repairs.”

However, the statement did not convince the House Transportation Committee chairman, Peter DeFazio, who believed the aircraft may not be airworthy. Following the findings, the FAA and Southwest agreed on a July 2020 deadline to perform a full audit of the aircraft and maintenance records. But as of October 2019, Southwest had been slow in their checks, with only 39 planes completed.

The pace is a concern for the FAA. They said in a letter to the airline, “given the slow pace of SWA’s evaluations of the affected airplanes, the FAA has concerns about SWA’s commitment to meeting the July 1, 2020, deadline.” The letter also demanded information on the aircraft’s history, including bird strikes, hard landings, and uncontained engine failures.

Not only did the FAA voice their concern about the airline’s commitment to completing the checks on time, they also threatened to ground 38 aircraft over incomplete audits. The letter said, “the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concerns regarding the status of 88 airplanes … that were operated by foreign air carriers prior to being purchased by SWA for use in the fleet. If the FAA’s concerns about the aircraft are not adequately addressed, the FAA may exercise remedies up to and including grounding the aircraft.” This letter also required Southwest to complete inspections on the aircraft within the week, to which the airline obliged.

In response to the letter, Southwest said they would provide full documentation of the aircraft’s maintenance and safety records by January 31st. As of November, “nose-to-tail” inspections of 41 aircraft have been completed with nine others currently undergoing heavy maintenance. According to King, the remaining aircraft maintenance checks will be completed by the new deadline.


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Comments are Closed.
WebTraveler December 3, 2019

Southwest clearly has some issues.

Ringer909 November 25, 2019

You're still not there, Taylor. There is no airplane known as a "737-800 MAX." Its a 737-800 or a 737 MAX 8 (technically a 737-8-200.) The article presumably covers both models, albeit it isn't clear.

SilverJack November 20, 2019

The FAA is covering it's butt after letting the MAX go into production with a faulty MCAS system. Look for more actions by them as they attempt to shift blame away. That ship has sailed, so burgeoning the airlines with more regulations won't help. BTW, the FAA doesn't inspect anything, they let the airlines and manufacturers do it. This is just useless posturing.

pedrofs November 20, 2019

Clickbait title; nothing in the article says they have to ground 50 planes; please change the word 'has' in the title to 'may.'

wesleyklein443 November 19, 2019

I'm pretty sure most people around here know that Southwest only operates Boeing 737 series aircrafts. It's probably just a typo!