Whistleblower Investigation Occurred Months before Southwest 1380

A Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas news outlet, NBCDFW.com and NBC 5 Investigates is reporting that months before the uncontained engine failure on Southwest 1380, the FAA found “distrust between managers and mechanics at Southwest’s Dallas maintenance base was so bad, FAA investigators feared it could put passengers at risk.”

At that time, whistleblower complaints from Southwest mechanics were being investigated. The FAA found during its investigation that “Southwest supervisors discouraged mechanics from reporting some aircraft problems and that supervisors questioned mechanics when they found maintenance issues beyond portions of the plane they had been assigned to inspect.”

An FAA report resulting from that investigation states that the managers used a questioning technique meant to relax standards and look the other way. “The result of this pattern is a capitulation of airworthiness and a culture of fear and retribution. Some personnel have resorted to photographing their findings … as a tool to ensure they can prove what they discovered in the event they are questioned by management,” the report says. The investigation was prompted by a mechanic reporting to management about an area in need of work that the mechanic was not assigned to inspect on an aircraft. The mechanic was questioned by management about why he was looking at that part of the aircraft.

Reading through the complaint and results of the subsequent investigation are a fascinating look at the relative subjectivity of what should be very clearly defined work. The FAA report does not find that any Southwest airplanes flew in an unsafe condition or that any FAA regulations were broken. There was no enforcement action taken as a result of the accusations or subsequent findings. The report also doesn’t bring up anything to do with engine fan blades, the issue causing the failure April.

The Whistleblower complaint can be seen here.

The NBC 5 Investigates report can be seen here.

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