FAA ‘Willing to Accept’ $10.2 Million from Southwest
The FAA sent a letter to Southwest Airlines on Thursday, notifying the carrier that because some Southwest Boeing 737s were flown while not in compliance with an Airworthiness Directive, the FAA wants to assess a civil penalty of $10.2 million. Most civil penalties are negotiated to a lower number. However, the proposal exceeds the record $10 million civil penalty that TAG Aviation USA paid last year to settle the FAA’s claims against TAG subsidiary AMI Jet Charter. In AMI’s case, the FAA was unable to point to any safety issues. In the Southwest case, the FAA claims that the airline flew thousands of cycles with aircraft that had not been fully inspected per an AD that mandated inspections for fatigue cracking. Southwest Airlines president Gary Kelly conceded that the airline erred and had to reinspect a small portion of the area covered by the AD on 46 airplanes, and “we found cracks on roughly half a dozen of those aircraft.” Southwest voluntarily disclosed its findings to the FAA and, Kelly said, “the fix was agreed upon with the FAA, and it was executed properly.” He said the agency’s proposed civil penalty came as a surprise.