Improper repairs on its aircraft will now cause Southwest Airlines to have to pay $12 million in government fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
On Monday, an FAA spokesman made the information made public that the FAA has proposed the $12 million sum. This is the second largest fine ever proposed, after the $24,2 million that American Airlines had to pay also because of aircraft maintenance issues. An FAA spokesman explained that the case against the American Airlines was bundled together with the bankruptcy case the airline opened, together with other outstanding enforcement cases and that in the end, a judge had approved the $24,9 million settlement.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explained that safety is their foremost priority and that airlines must be held responsible for any and all repairs that their contractors undertake. There are already three separate incidents that have been related to repairs completed by contractors on Boeing 737 jetliners that Southwest Airlines had ordered.
One of these incidents involves an extreme makeover. More than 44 planes were at risk of cracking the aluminum skin, so Southwest ordered alteration to eliminate this risk. The FAA affirmed that the contractor Southwest chose (Aviation Technical Services of Everett) did not follow the required protocols and procedures for stabilizing airplanes and placing them on jacks. If because of this mistake, an airplane is improperly shored, it could cause the airframe to shift and could cause problems. The FAA added that after these procedures had been finished, Southwest went on to return the jetliners to service although they did not comply with federal aviation regulations. It was only after the airline provided documentation proving that the alterations had met safety standards that the FAA approved the repairs.
Another issue the FAA found involved sealant that the contractor applied without installing fasteners in the rivet holes. According to them, during the period when the sealant is effective, if fasteners aren’t fixed in all rivet holes, gaps between the skin and the mounting surface could arise and this could in turn lead to corrosion. The third case was connected to ground wire on water drain masts that had apparently not been properly installed.
Southwest spokespeople said, however, that all their repairs strive to be fully compliant with approved procedures and processes and that none of the incidents address aircrafts that are currently being operated by Southwest Airlines.
The Airline has 30 days since the moment it received the FAA’s civil penalty letter to issue a response.