FAA Proposes $12 Million Fine Against Southwest

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Southwest Airlines and its contractor failed to follow proper procedures when repairing dozens of Boeing 737 aircraft, the FAA said on Monday, and the agency wants to fine the airline $12 million. On several occasions, starting in 2006, the airline failed to comply with regulations or to satisfy the FAA's paperwork requirements, the FAA said. "The FAA views maintenance very seriously, and it will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to follow regulations," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Melanie Jones, a Southwest spokeswoman, told USA Today the repair issues all were addressed years ago and none of the issues affect any aircraft now flying. "Safety is paramount, and we always strive for full compliance with established and approved processes and procedures," Jones said. The airline has 30 days to formally respond to the allegations.

Two of the incidents cited by the FAA involved major fuselage repairs to 44 Boeing 737 aircraft, which were completed by the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, of Everett, Washington. The FAA said ATS failed to follow proper procedures. The FAA also said Southwest failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its Boeing 737s in response to an Airworthiness Directive addressing lightning strikes. The airplanes were each operated on more than 20 passenger flights after Southwest became aware of the discrepancies but before the airline corrected the problem, the FAA said. Southwest has 30 days to respond to the FAA's letter. Such disputes are often settled in negotiations that can take years, according to USA Today.