Southwest Airlines couldn't produce safety data for 38 jets, which caused the Federal Aviation Administration to consider—but ultimately delay—grounding those jets, the Wall Street Journal reveals. The airline brought 88 used foreign jets into its fleet between 2013 and 2017, and last year an FAA official uncovered abnormalities with the paperwork. Southwest has since informed the FAA that for some of the planes, it has struggled to find reliable paperwork indicating that necessary repairs and maintenance were carried out by previous operators, but that Southwest considers it "more of a record-keeping problem than a safety risk," per the Journal. Ultimately the FAA allowed the planes to continue flying as long as Southwest sped up inspections and finished them by the end of January. CNN notes the issue was brought to light after a Senate panel released paperwork Monday.
Of the 88 jets in question, 41 have been inspected and deemed compliant and nine are undergoing inspections. A veteran maintenance inspector first expressed concern about the remaining 38 planes last year, and more inspectors continued to complain to FAA managers this year that paperwork was missing. By Oct. 29, the FAA was threatening to ground the planes, all of which are Boeing 737s. Discussions between the FAA and Southwest then ensued, and the Jan. 31 deadline was agreed upon. Southwest tells the Journal none of the discrepancies in question would make flights unsafe. "A small number of repairs on a few aircraft had been performed but not properly classified by the previous owners because of differences in language and repair criteria," a spokesperson says. But the Senate Commerce Committee has expressed concern, notes the Washington Post. (Read more Southwest Airlines stories.)