Southwest Faces Record Fines

Airline found several cracks after skipping required safety checks
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2008 4:18 AM CST
Southwest airplanes at Love Field in Dallas. The airline faces at least $3 Million in fines for failure to expect older planes in its fleet. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Southwest Airlines faces at least $3 million in fines sought by the FAA for failing to inspect 46 older Boeing 737-300 jets for structural flaws identified in a 2004 safety directive, reports the Wall Street Journal. The expected penalty would be the largest imposed on an airline in 20 years. When the planes were finally inspected last spring, six had cracks up to 4 inches long in the fuselage.

The Department of Transportation and a congressional committee are examining why the FAA didn't ground the planes when the skipped inspections were discovered. "It was Southwest that found, disclosed and fixed this issue last March, which the FAA accepted and then determined the matter to be closed," said a spokeswoman for Southwest.The inspections were completed 10 days after the oversight was discovered.