Airline Must Also Comply With Strict Requirements
The Federal Aviation Administration
announced Monday it has reached a settlement agreement with
Southwest Airlines to resolve outstanding enforcement actions...
taking the low-cost carrier to the woodshed on a number of
safety-related matters, but for the moment sparing the airline from
a still-larger penalty.
The agreement stems from a $10.2 million civil penalty proposed
on March 6, 2008 against Southwest Airlines for operating 46
airplanes on 59,791 flights without performing mandatory
inspections for fuselage fatigue cracking.
As ANN reported, Southwest disputed the fine
but admitted to some of those charges, maintaining it informed the
FAA of its own oversights in 2007.
Under the agreement, Southwest Airlines will pay a $7.5 million
civil penalty that could double to $15 million if the airline does
not accomplish specific safety improvements outlined in the
"This agreement furthers aviation safety by requiring important
improvements to the airline's safety program. Some of those safety
measures exceed FAA regulations," said FAA Acting Administrator
Lynne A. Osmus.
The $7.5 million civil penalty will be paid in three
installments of $2.5 million. The first payment is due within 10
business days of signing the agreement. Two additional payments
will be made no later than January 15, 2010, and January 15,
According to the FAA, Southwest will pay an additional $7.5
million if it does not accomplish 13 additional safety-related
requirements related to personnel; manuals and procedures; company
organization; and training. FAA inspectors will monitor Southwest
Airlines’ progress on a variety of improvements, for which
the longest compliance time is one year.
Among those stipulations: within 30 days, Southwest Airlines
will increase the number of on-site technical representatives for
heavy maintenance vendors from 27 to 35 people; within 60 days,
Southwest will allow FAA inspectors improved access to information
used for tracking maintenance and engineering activities; and
within 90 days, the airline will designate a management head of
Quality Assurance who does not have air carrier certification
Within 180 days, the FAA requires Southwest review its Required
Inspection Item (RII) procedures to ensure compliance with FAA
rules related to maintenance and identify more clearly all RII
items on its maintenance work instructions, engineering
authorizations, and task cards. By this time next year, Southwest
is also required to rewrite all FAA-approved manuals.
The FAA pointedly noted the agreement does not prevent the
agency from taking action against Southwest on safety issues
unrelated to this settlement agreement. It's also worth noting
Southwest has an overall safety record almost second to none; the
only fatality attributable to the airline came in December 2005,
when a small boy died after the car he was riding in was struck by
a 737 that careened off an icy runway at Chicago's Midway