FAA Says Southwest Tried To Hide Safety Problems

<!–faainspector.jpg–>There’s a congressional hearing going on right now over the unsafe Southwest Airlines planes. It seems like the FAA’s Southwest Airlines operation was a smörgåsbord of delicious corruption that put many lives (and careers) at risk by becoming too cozy with the airline it was supposed to regulate.

CNN says:

In early March, CNN obtained documents from the House committee investigation that alleged the discount airline kept dozens of aircraft in the air without mandatory inspections — and in some cases, with defects the inspections were designed to detect.

Boutris and Peters said FAA managers knew the Southwest planes were flying illegally and did nothing about it, according to the documents.

The inspectors wrote that Southwest, which carried more passengers in the United States last year than any other airline, flew at least 70 planes without a mandatory inspection on the rudder unit, part of the steering mechanism, some of them as much as 30 months beyond the mandatory rudder inspection.

The airline also flew at least 47 planes beyond a mandatory inspection of the fuselage, or skin, of the planes for possible cracks, the inspectors said. When the inspections were carried out, six of the planes were found to have possibly dangerous cracks, they said.

Speaking with CNN Wednesday, Boutris questioned why the airline did not immediately ground those 47 planes when they learned they were out of compliance.

“It is sad that an FAA inspector has to become a whistle blower in order to do his job,” Boutris told CNN. “And the job is — that we were hired by the taxpayers — to ensure the airlines provide safe transportation for the flying public. It shouldn’t have to come to this.”

Boutris and Peters are seeking protection via the federal whistle blower protection program.

During the hearing, Inspector Peters got a little choked up as he described a conversation with another FAA employee in which that employee pointed at photos of Peters’ wife and children and told him that they were “what was important” and that he shouldn’t risk his own career and the career of his wife by trying to stop corruption at the FAA. He told congress that he was not a “disgruntled” employee and that he was trying to do what he felt was right.

FAA inspectors: Southwest tried to hide safety problems [CNN]

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Comments

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  1. axiomatic says:

    “We at Southwest might not inspect our planes for safety but we’ll be damned sure that no one in a mini-skirt EVER boards our planes! We will go down in flames looking like puritanic winners!”

    -smarm off

  2. Mr_Human says:

    “We at Southwest Airlines takes safety very seriously.”

  3. TheBestMaxEver says:

    Come on now folks…Is there really an airline out there that isn’t just oozing evil? Airplanes are just another necessary evil may of us depend on to get where we are going. (Thanks impulsive American Culture) between the germs, the seats, ridiculous upgrade prices, rude stewards'(YEAH I said STEWARDS’- You aren’t flight attendants, you’re angry mean waitresses on a power trip!), and pointless security tactics that aren’t efficient — Air Travel sucks!!! But it is fast — Decide for yourself if it is worth the trade off.

  4. Mr. Gunn says:

    props on the proper spelling of smörgåsbord

  5. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @TheBestMaxEver: 1) I’m the best max ever. I demand you change your name.

    2) “may (sic) of us depend on to get where we are going.” – That gets harder to do when the rudder falls off because nobody inspected it for THREE YEARS. I’m not advocating we immediately inspect every plane with a microscope, but maybe checking out the joints and such once in a while is reasonable, hmm?

  6. MissTic says:

    Now see, these are the kinds of hearing Congress should be holding instead of steroid use in major league baseball.

  7. katylostherart says:

    @Mr. Gunn: everything with an umlaut automatically makes me think of ikea now.

  8. starrion says:

    @m4ximusprim3:
    “That gets harder to do when the rudder falls off because nobody inspected it for THREE YEARS”

    The AD for the rudder inspections is because of the Rudder Hadover problem that brought down two 737’s. Pilots have been trained in how to counteract the problem until they can land safely. Southwest is still irresponsible for not complying, but they can recover and land if the problem occurs.

    The AD for the cracking issue is the Aloha Air 737 that lost the top half of the fuselage that killed a Flight Attendant. (They may be rude, but their actual job is making sure passengers get out of the plane in an emergency. The waitressing is a side job. )
    The cracks have to be very severe before the skin fails. Southwest should be doing the inspection sooner, because it’s easier to fix.

    Southwest was holding off on these because it’s hugely expensive to pull 10% of your aircraft for inspections. They should have done it, but they were probably waiting for the slow season in April and May.

  9. TheBestMaxEver says:

    @m4ximusprim3: If you were thebestmaxever, it would have been your moniker. It has been my stage name forever so I can’t give it up. I used to be Max Power, but thanks to Homer Simpson stealing it from me I had to redevelop.

    [www.LifeAccordingToMax.com]

  10. lpranal says:

    Is this just the tip of the iceberg? I mean, southwest actually has an excellent safety record- wonder how much some of the airlines (who actually had planes go down) have hidden over the years…

  11. yagisencho says:

    No inspections? No business from me.

  12. mc101 says:

    Oh great, I’m finally going back home to Colorado for a visit this summer with my kids, and we’re flying SW–what are the odds we’ll get there now?? Maybe two days in the car wouldn’t be so bad after all…

  13. jeremybwilson says:

    You don’t want to know what happens in the underground baggage systems in most CAT X (Category Ten – Largest) airports. I spent most of my time topside in the public view.

    If the airline/airport-owned baggage systems saw as much outside attention as TSA-managed checkpoints, then I give you my word that the airlines (underground) corner-cutting would put them up on that beloved Most Hated list that currently the TSA and the IRS occupy the top of.

    Airlines managment is only interested in making money.

    Low level airline employees in certain roles (pretty much just the maintenance people – and they are being quickly outsourced) actually care about you and employ that thought process in how they carry out their jobs.

    Sad though, in a management versus rank-and-file contest, the management will squash the low level employees.

    If that doesn’t work, they will outsource them. And they (airline management) have largely done that.

    If you want specifics, here is just a list of of the airlines at Seatac who outsourced their baggage and or maintenance in the past four years:

    1) Delta (baggage – Menzies)
    2) Alaska (baggage – Menzies)(maint – dunno the name)
    3) Northwest (maint – dunno the name)
    4) United (baggage – Menzies)

    Bad as TSA was, you couldn’t pay me to work for an airline.

  14. harshmellow says:

    The FAA is just another organization that the Bush administration is quietly dismantling from the inside. It’s how they “run” the government. (See FEMA, FDA, CPB, the military, etc.) When I say run, I mean into the ground.

    It’s what they are doing to our government and our country.

    Their next target: the SEC.

  15. trujunglist says:

    Umm, well, like I’ve said in previous posts, the FAA serves a dual purpose; promoting the air industry and protecting the passenger… guess which one pays the FAA more money?

  16. DanPVD says:

    Yep…Southwest is running a deathtrap…that’s why they have one of the best safety records in the inudstry.

  17. harshmellow says:

    @DanPVD: Maybe they have one of the best safety records in the country because they have buddies at the FAA who won’t let the inspectors do their job.

  18. starrion says:

    @harshmellow:

    The safety record is /

    For Southwest that would be / 1

  19. starrion says:

    @starrion:

    The safety record is passengers flown/passengers lost

    For Southwest that would be tens of millions/ 1

  20. JerseyJarhead says:

    The FAA is one of the most incompetent federal agencies in existence (and that is saying something, people) and evidently, also one of the most corrupt.

    Our safety is compromised not only by these maintenance scandals but even more by the fact that the air traffic control system – also the responsibility of the FAA – is completely broken. Commercial aircraft are “controlled” by increasingly failing 1950s technology and a bunch of overworked, overstressed and highly pissed-off controllers at ARTCCs and towers around the country. And if you knew how many near misses there are between one a/c on the ground and another taking off or landing, you would NEVER even get near an airport.