Southwest’s 737s threatened with FAA grounding

Southwest Airlines has been threatened by the FAA with a grounding order on 38 of its 737 aircraft due to concerns connected to their operational history, namely performed maintenance while they were flown by other airlines from outside the US.

These 88 aircraft were introduced into its fleet from 2013 to 2017, which at the time were more than 10% of the LCC’s fleet, do not, allegedly, meet the FAA’s airworthiness standards, states a letter sent by H. Clayton Foushee, director of the office of Audit and Evaluation to the administrator of the FAA Steve Dickson on 24 October.

The concern is that Southwest Airlines found several aircraft with substandard or incorrect repairs done on the jets by the previous owners overseas. Additionally, the paperwork about the aforementioned repairs is unreliable, meaning that neither the FAA nor Southwest can confirm for sure the second-hand 737s meet all safety requirements, including incomplete translations of maintenance records of maintenance records.

The FAA allowed 38 aircraft to fly after the airline agreed the that it will complete checks on the Boeing 737 aircraft by 31 January 2020. The previous deadline was 1 July.

Foushee urged the agency to “take immediate action to either suspend or revoke the airworthiness certificates of the remaining” jets that are yet to be checked “nose to tail”. Foushee estimated that 49 jets do not meet FAA’s airworthiness requirements.

A statement by the airline sent that the US based agency sent a letter to the carrier on 29 October, about the aforementioned aircraft. The LCC proceeded to conduct a Safety Risk Analysis “on documentation associated with 41 pre-owned aircraft,” that have gone through comprehensive inspections within two-days and the results were presented to the FAA. Within seven days, Southwest Airlines had to perform and provide a Safety Risk Analysis on 38 aircraft that “are currently scheduled for full inspections” and also send the results of the analysis to the agency in Washington, DC.

“We have completed the Safety Risk Analyses and inspections and found no deviations that would adversely impact safety of flight and continue to follow all regulatory requirements”.

Southwest Airlines has had to previously ground its fleet before due to paperwork issues with some of its second-hand aircraft, in November 2018. At the time the carrier voluntary grounded 34 737-700s, although at the time this grounding had minimal impact on its airline operations.

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