WASHINGTON, DC — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached a settlement agreement with Southwest Airlines to resolve outstanding enforcement actions. Under the agreement, Southwest Airlines will pay a $7.5 million civil penalty that could double to $15 million if the airline does not accomplish specific safety improvements outlined in the settlement agreement.
The agreement stems from a $10.2 million civil penalty proposed on March 6 against Southwest Airlines for operating 46 airplanes on 59,791 flights without performing mandatory inspections for fuselage fatigue cracking.
"This agreement furthers aviation safety by requiring important improvements to the airline's safety program. Some of those safety measures exceed FAA regulations," says FAA Acting Administrator Lynne A. Osmus.
The $7.5 million civil penalty will be paid in three installments of $2.5 million. The first payment is due within 10 business days of signing the agreement. Two additional payments will be made no later than Jan. 15, 2010, and Jan. 15, 2011.
Southwest Airlines will pay an additional $7.5 million if it does not accomplish 13 additional safety-related requirements related to personnel; manuals and procedures; company organization; and training. FAA inspectors will monitor Southwest Airlines' progress on a variety of improvements for which the longest compliance time is one year. Examples include:
- Within 30 days, Southwest Airlines will increase the number of on-site technical representatives for heavy maintenance vendors from 27 to 35 people.
- Within 60 days, Southwest Airlines will allow FAA inspectors improved access to information used for tracking maintenance and engineering activities.
- Within 90 days, Southwest Airlines will designate a management head of Quality Assurance who does not have air carrier certification responsibilities.
- Within 180 days, Southwest Airlines will review its Required Inspection Item (RII) procedures to ensure compliance with FAA rules related to maintenance and identify more clearly all RII items on its maintenance work instructions, engineering authorizations, and task cards.
- Within 365 days, Southwest Airlines will rewrite all FAA-approved manuals.
The agreement does not prevent the FAA from taking action against Southwest Airlines on safety issues unrelated to this settlement agreement.