Last week on the night before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, Southwest Airlines reportedly had to ground 34 aircraft. The Boeing 737-700s were apparently not in compliance maintenance directives.
According to a report in the Chicago Business Journal, “the detailed visual inspections performed on the grounded planes focused on damaged fuselage areas of the aircraft that had been previously repaired. All — or most — of the grounded aircraft requiring the additional inspections were planes previously owned by other airlines,” the story said.
The FAA mandated immediate inspections of the 34 aircraft and Southwest complied. Although there is still an Inspector General investigation ongoing resulting from the April uncontained engine failure, this is not related to that investigation, according to the report.
The FAA released this statement: “The Federal Aviation Administration raised questions about documentation of several Southwest Airlines aircraft last Wednesday. Under Southwest Airlines’ FAA-approved safety management system the company voluntarily withdrew the aircraft from service for review for proper documentation, and if necessary, to conduct inspections and complete any safety directives.”
“Last Wednesday evening, Southwest voluntarily performed additional inspections on 34 previously owned 737-700 aircraft, out of our fleet of approximately 750 aircraft, to ensure that documentation was complete and in compliance with FAA safety directives. Southwest completed more than 4,100 flights on Wednesday, and the inspections had minimal effect on our operation. Safety is always our top priority, and we take pride in our rigorous and well-run maintenance program,” Southwest said in a statement.