WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it is proposing a $12 million civil fine against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with safety regulations related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners.
The FAA said that beginning in 2006 Southwest made “extreme makeover” alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. An FAA investigation determined that Southwest’s contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage as well as other work on the planes, the agency said. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest, which was responsible for seeing that it was done properly, the FAA said.
Southwest, based in Dallas, then returned the planes to service in 2009 and they were flown about 100,000 times. About a third of the flights occurred after the FAA “put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance” with safety regulations, the agency said. The FAA said it later approved repairs to the planes after the airline provided proper documentation that the repairs met safety standards.
The FAA also said that Southwest failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its Boeing 737s in response to a safety order aimed at preventing lightning strikes.
The planes were each operated on more than 20 passenger flights after Southwest Airlines became aware of the discrepancies but before the airline corrected the problem, the agency said.
Southwest Airlines has 30 days to respond. Brandi King of Southwest said the airline will “respond to the FAA allegations” in accordance with the agency’s procedures.
“Having fully resolved the repair issues some time ago, none of the items raised in the FAA letter affect aircraft currently being operated by Southwest Airlines,” she said.
“As always, Southwest is committed to continuously making enhancements to our internal procedures, as well as improvements related to oversight of our repair vendors.”