1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Southwest Airlines will provide details regarding a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety oversight to the US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure today (3 April).
The airline”s executive chairman Herb Kelleher and CEO Gary Kelly say in a joint statement: ”While the last month has been a very difficult time for all of us at Southwest Airlines, we want to assure you and the flying public that we take this matter very seriously and will apply Southwest's strong commitment to safety to make all changes necessary to improve our Airworthiness Directive (AD) and regulatory compliance systems.”
Last month, Southwest removed 38 of its Boeing 737 fleet from scheduled service for maintenance checks after it found ”an ambiguity” in its records relating to required tests on the aircraft ” and consequently found fuselage damage on six of them.
An action was initiated by the FAA to fine Southwest an unprecedented $10.2m (”5m) for allegedly failing to perform the mandatory inspections.
”The March 2007 events were triggered when Southwest undertook a modification of certain "lap joints" on our aircraft,” said a Southwest statement. ”The record-keeping error we made with respect to interrelated ADs, was that our inspection paperwork did not include a small portion of the hull that still needed to be inspected.
”Contrary to some suggestions, we did not miss an inspection. But, we inadvertently omitted a small area (0.6% of the skin surface) that ordinarily should have been specifically inspected under the AD.”
Southwest then admits that it should not have left the aircraft in service ” ”better judgment should have been exercised than to allow those aircraft to fly after the potential non-compliance was discovered. The second was that senior management should have been consulted on such a significant issue, but was not.”
The FAA alleges Southwest operated the 737s on a further 1,451 flights once it learnt of the oversight.
The airline strongly maintains that safety was not compromised: ”We contacted The Boeing Company for its expert opinion, as well as former NTSB Investigator-in-Charge, Gregory A. Feith,” continued Southwest in its testimony. ”Both confirmed, based on their expert knowledge of the 737 and our comprehensive maintenance program, that ”safety was not compromised," and "there was no risk to the flying public in March 2007.””
It also says it has decided not to outsource maintenance work in El Salvador, as it had planned to from June, ”on the basis that given the intense scrutiny being given to our entire maintenance operation, top to bottom, now was not the time to add complexity with significant changes to our maintenance operations.”
It was not because of any lack of confidence in the company it had intended to use, it stressed.
Southwest had a month to respond to the FAA following receipt of its letter regarding the intended fine.
”It”s a matter of them coming back to us and presenting why they believe they weren”t in breach of the regulations,” an FAA spokesman told ABTN. ”They had 30 days to respond from 5 March ” but once we get that, we”ll then have to consider our response. It could be a while before there is a decision.”