<!––>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.
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.