A new Inspector General report says the FAA failed to hold Southwest to its safety standards and the airline used “diversion, distraction and power” to prevent the FAA from overseeing its operations.
Even when junior local FAA operatives raised concerns the FAA failed to investigate and the airline deliberately bypassed local FAA officials to avoid oversight.
The report states that some 17.2 million passengers and staff were put at risk by poor practices and a deliberate culture of regulatory avoidance by Southwest.
The complaint came about after a woman died – the first US passenger death in nine years – in 2018, when an engine exploded sending parts into the fuselage and killing her.
Southwest said it had addressed the issue and ‘vehemently disagreed’ with the way its attitude had been portrayed.
The FAA admitted its failings, especially its failure to certify properly the safety of 88 old aircraft Southwest imported for its use in dealing with the MAX shortage. The FAA approved 71 of the aircraft in just one day. Normally such certification takes around four weeks per aircraft.
Last October, 24 of the 737’s were found to have had “undocumented, nonconforming or unverifiable repairs,” the report found. Those aircraft operated more than 150,000 flights carrying as many as 17.2 million passengers.
The saga further undermines the FAA’s previously global leadership authority, and underscores further how it’s overall lack of leadership and authority allowed Boeing to get so far with the MAX, as well as let down the flying public using Southwest.
The very purpose of its existence is to protect passengers and crews. It failed lamentably.