01 September 2009

Oh Dear Southwest Again...

Southwest has now had to admit the number of planes affected by the uncertified parts scandal has increased to approaching 20% of the fleet (82 planes out of 500).

While the vendor has been suspended by Southwest, the issue remains. The parts are not that common that WN can simply go out and buy them off the rack, thus the FAA is being very lenient in extending the time for WN to fix things until Christmas. However it is almost guaranteed that this time the FAA will again slap WN with a fine and WN may whine but it will pay the fine this time without murmur.

You may recall that last year for a similar violation the FAA slapped one of the largest fines on an airline for maintenance violations to Southwest who fought it but in the end paid - not that they couldn't have afforded it.

The now former vendor's spokesperson described the problem this: "This is a paperwork and procedures issue, not a flight-safety issue," he said.

Whether it is or it isn't safety can never be compromised. There has to be zero tolerance 100% of the time. However this is a not just an airline issue - the regulatory body has to accept a level of responsibility as does the paymasters who must ensure adequate funding for the process.

A case in point is the extended amount of time that was allowed to address the fuel tank issue after the TW800 disaster and others.

Not that I want to jump to any conclusion. I would happily book WN today if I needed to fly on their route system. I feel they are perfectly safe, but I would probably choose another airline if the price was the same. Call it just a "safe than sorry" attitude.

We should all be able to rest easy that when we board an aircraft that the system works. In the case of WN this has happened more than once. That needs to be fixed. The FAA needs to make sure it doesn't happen again at WN or any other airline for that matter.


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