Southwest Airlines Hires Outside Expert to Review Maintenance - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/11/08

Southwest Airlines Hires Outside Expert to Review Maintenance

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Southwest Airlines said Tuesday it has placed three employees on leave and hired an outside expert to review its maintenance procedures.

The Dallas-based airline is accused of operating planes that had missed key safety inspections. The airline also says it has promised federal regulators that it will fix any shortcomings in its system of tracking maintenance work.

Last week, the FAA proposed a $10.2 million civil penalty - the largest ever against an airline. The fine came after finding that Southwest had missed safety inspections for dozens of planes, then kept flying some of them before they could be examined.

Southwest did not identify the employees who were placed on leave by name or position. The airline said it was cooperating with the investigation.

The FAA says Southwest operated nearly 60,000 flights with nearly 50 Boeing 737 aircraft that had missed a required inspection of their fuselage or body for small cracks. Such signs of metal fatigue have been considered an important safety concern since a deadly accident in 1988.

Meanwhile, documents released by congressional investigators paint a picture of FAA inspectors being too cozy with the airlines they regulate. Two whistle-blowers told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that FAA supervisors and colleagues blunted their attempt to force Southwest to follow an FAA order to re-inspect the planes.

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