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Southwest Airlines: FAA proposes $12 million fine for shoddy repairs

Southwest Airlines had a huge fine imposed for bad repairs.
Southwest Airlines had a huge fine imposed for bad repairs.
Southwest Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $12 million fine against Southwest Airlines for the company allegedly failing to follow through with repair orders for some Boeing 737 planes. USA Today reported on July 28, 2014, that the case actually combines three earlier enforcement actions against Southwest Airlines.

"Safety is our top priority, and that means holding airlines responsible for the repairs their contractors undertake," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "Everyone has a role to play and a responsibility to ensure the safety of our transportation system."

The Verge reports that in 2006, Southwest Airlines carried out "extreme makeover" alterations that had the intention to "eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners."

Aviation Technical Services is the contractor that had the job for the airline and they failed to follow the right procedures as mandated by the agency. A number of the problems weren't necessarily catastrophic, but it could have brought up big problems in the future.

Per the FAA:

During its investigation, the FAA found that ATS workers applied sealant beneath the new skin panels but did not install fasteners in all of the rivet holes during the timeframe for the sealant to be effective. This could have resulted in gaps between the skin and the surface to which it was being mounted. Such gaps could allow moisture to penetrate the skin and lead to corrosion. As a result of the improper repairs, these airplanes did not comply with Federal Aviation Regulations.

With that being said, the FAA warned Southwest Airlines that a number of Boeing 737s were not in compliance, but the airline was said to have ignore these warnings. Southwest Airlines is said to keep using the planes and they were flown "on more than 20 passenger flights" in 2009 alone.

At this point, Southwest Airlines was said to have corrected the problem and get the approval on the repairs from the FAA.

Southwest has 30 days to formally respond to the civil-penalty letter from the FAA. It is said that there often negotiations between airlines and the FAA to reduce fines.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Melanie Jones responded by saying that the concerns of the FAA are about repair issues addressed years ago. She said that none of the issues listed affect any planes being currently flown by Southwest Airlines.

"Safety is paramount, and we always strive for full compliance with established and approved processes and procedures," Jones said.