Southwest Airlines Receives Yet Another Fine Related To Aircraft Repairs

Southwest Airlines faces yet another aircraft repair related fine — this time for $325,000 — from federal regulators after flying an airplane too long after it had received temporary repairs.

The Dallas Morning News reports the latest fine for Southwest brings its total tab to $12,653,550 in less than two years.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the most recent fine stems from when an inspector with the regulator took a look at an 18-year-old Boeing 737 while it was in a maintenance facility in San Salvador, El Salvador in July 2014.

The inspector discovered that Southwest had improperly recorded a temporary repair to an nine-inch crease in the aluminum skin of the jetliner’s rear cargo door as a permanent repair.

“The inspector discovered that this fuselage damage had first been reported in Southwest Airlines’ maintenance records on May 2, 2002, which is when the airline made the temporary repair,” the FAA states. “The airline was required to inspect the temporary repair every 4,000 flights and complete a permanent repair within 24,000 flights.”

The FAA alleges that Southwest didn’t abide by those requirements, and instead flew the plane on 24,831 flights without performing periodic inspections.

“The agency further alleges the airline operated the plane on 4,831 flights beyond the flight threshold by which it was required to have performed the permanent repair,” the agency states. “The final repair was completed on July 24, 2014.”

For its part, Southwest says it discovered the potential deficiency in July 2014 and all issues were promptly addressed to the satisfaction of the FAA.

“There is no impact to any other aircraft in our fleet,” Brad Hawkins, a spokesperson for the airline tells the Dallas Morning News. “Safety is the highest priority at Southwest, and we strive always toward full compliance with established and approved maintenance processes and procedures. Southwest has requested a meeting with the FAA to discuss the proposed penalty.”

The airline’s latest fine comes four months after the FAA levied a $328,550 fine against Southwest for two safety issues that occurred in 2013.

The first case – which received a penalty of $265,800 – involved a plane that lost cabin pressure during a flight from Boston to St. Louis in May 2013. The FAA alleges that mechanics for the airline failed to do a mandatory inspection for damage and to ensure the depleted oxygen bottles were replaced after the flight landed.

In the second case, the FAA alleges that mechanics improperly deferred repairs and failed to log issues regarding air leaking from an air conditioning unit on one of Southwest’s AirTran Airways planes.

Back in February, the airline had to cancel dozens of flights after learning that one-fifth of its entire fleet was overdue for necessary maintenance checks. In all, the airline had to ground 128 planes pending inspection, but reached a deal with the FAA that allowed the jets to continue flying.

The airline is also currently battling the FAA on a $12 million fine related to improper repairs going back as far as 2006. When the fine was first reported in January 2014, FAA investigates said they found three separate incidents in which Southwest and its hired contractor improperly repaired aircraft.

Southwest refused to pay the fine, and in November the U.S. government filed a lawsuit seeking the payment. That case is scheduled to go to trail in 2016.

Southwest Airlines hit with $325,000 FAA fine over aircraft repair [The Dallas Morning News]

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