Southwest Checks for Cracks

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about what happened today, because it’s been covered by just about everyone. (I should say overdramatized by just about everyone.) In short, Southwest had to take 38 planes out of service to perform a 90 minute check to see if there were any fuselage cracks. They canceled a fair number of flights today (Wednesday), but they should be back to normal tomorrow.

The reason I’m not going to spend much time on this is because I just don’t know much about what’s going on. Southwest says that there was an “ambiguity” related to the required checks that they discovered last night when they were going over maintenance records. So, they decided to be conservative and pull the planes out immediately.

What was this ambiguity? If they self-reported the problem to the FAA a year ago, shouldn’t those ambiguities have been discovered then and not a year later? I said before that we need to wait before condemning Southwest as being unsafe. I still stand by that, because there’s a lot that we don’t know, but this “reinspection” of aircraft certainly does not help their cause in my eyes. I still tend to think that the FAA is going to come out worst of all here, but Southwest isn’t going to come out smelling like roses by a longshot.

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Thomas Sullivan - Quiet RocklandSethCFCourtney Miller Recent comment authors
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Courtney Miller

My beef is with the FAA’s handling of the self-disclosure process. As far as I’m getting from the reports, Southwest found the error, not the FAA. In the interests of collaboration and improving industry safety, Southwest disclosed this to the FAA, and the FAA has responded by focusing on punishment rather than ensuring the problem gets fixed industry-wide. I guess all the negative PR will bring enough attention to the issue for the rest of the industry to shape-up, but it also places a bit of an incentive on the next airline to not self-disclose. On a side-note, I’m tickled… Read more »


I can only imagine that “ambiguity” = “we really never did the checks and forgot about it.” Whoopsie. What is really strange to me is that I get the feeling that checks are supposed to be performed every 4500 flights. With Southwest’s schedule that is probably about every 2.5-3 years (figuring 4-5 flights a day). At this point some of those planes have almost gone 100% over their inspection cycle, which is outrageous. I said before here and on my blog that I have no reason to believe that they are inherently unsafe just for missing the scheduled inspections; a… Read more »

Thomas Sullivan - Quiet Rockland
Thomas Sullivan - Quiet Rockland

This story goes a lot deeper that missed inspections and who found it.

It appears that the Soutwest used it’s “Cozy” relationship with the FAA to circumvent and FAA inspector. This is what Senator Oberstar is talking about…

Now the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into possible threats, made against a local FAA inspector who blew the whistle on the FAA and Southwest Airlines.

Time to boycott Southwest !