Southwest Airlines: The Plot Thickens
The plot thickens at Southwest Airlines, which as we reported earlier is facing record FAA fines for failing to do mandatory safety checks on some of its older planes.
At first Chief Executive Gary Kelly pooh-poohed the reports, saying the maintenance checks were redundant, and there was really no problem. But yesterday he said in a statement that "I am concerned about some of our findings." The company then placed three workers on leave after reviewing maintenance records, and hired a consultant to review maintenance programs.
More tellingly, Southwest yanked about 40 planes out of its fleet because they needed inspections of the aircraft skin above and below the windows along the fuselage. Each inspection takes about 90 minutes, and the airline is hoping to have the work completed in time to operate a full schedule tomorrow (Thursday). One company exec told the Dallas Morning News that they are "taking a conservative approach, even if that looks bad."
A short review: The FAA charges that Southwest made 1,451 flights after the FAA disclosed the maintenance problems. But the FAA's role is equally cloudy, and the federal agency has removed two workers from their positions. FAA whistleblowers contend that an FAA and a Southwest manager knew about the problems and didn't do anything. The FAA is not commenting. Congress James Oberstar said earlier this week that Southwest may have flown 70 planes for at least a year without inspecting rudder controls.
After doing the maintenance checks, Southwest found fuselage cracks in some planes. Scary. However, the airline's Web site today is saying that it "contacted Boeing for verification of their technical opinion.... In Boeing's opinion, the safety of the Southwest fleet was not compromised."
Good to know.
CoGo happens to have a flight soon on Southwest. Although the company has shaken consumer confidence, and rightfully so, CoGo isn't worried about an upcoming flight. Southwest seems to be taking this seriously, the FAA is on the hot seat, and Southwest is probably going to be one of the safest fleets flying, as least while the spotlight is still on them. You agree?
By Cindy Loose |
March 12, 2008; 2:45 PM ET
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