March 12th, 2008
06:52 PM ET

The Real problem with Southwest grounding its planes: The FAA


If you’ve been following the story about Southwest Airlines grounding its planes today, I thought you might like to learn why the folks in congress are actually more upset about the FAA’s oversight of Southwest than about Southwest itself.

In a nutshell, The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee actually found itself doing the FAA's work: oversight of an airline. Two FAA inspectors came to the committee with documents, records and a tale of slack compliance that stunned congressional investigators. What the documents showed was Southwest was allowed to fly planes beyond mandatory deadline inspections because an FAA manager was concerned about Southwest’s ability to meet its flight schedule.

That was happening a year ago. Now, we’re learning its happening again. Southwest grounded 44 planes last night until it could re-inspect them for cracks. The inspections should have already taken place but apparently, once again, the schedule was allowed to slide.

Here’s why the chair of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D) Minnesota is so mad: “The action by Southwest Airlines raises serious questions about where the FAA adequately followed up on the discovery a year ago that Southwest had failed to make required inspections.”

Oberstar made those comments while recovering from hip surgery. He expects to be back in Washington DC next month to hold hearings on the FAA. He may have a pain in his side now. But I bet he’s about to become a real pain in the backside of the FAA when his committee starts asking how this happened.

– Drew Griffin, CNN Special Investigations Unit Correspondent

Filed under: Drew Griffin • FAA • Southwest Airlines
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Michael Steir

    Grounding 44 aircraft for one day? 90 minute inspection for structural cracks??

    After 40 years in the airline industry I know that you have to do much more for this kind of inspection. In fact, if you really want to be sure the color has to come off first...

    Was this just a PR-stunt to calm the public? Is the FAA playing along?
    Let's keep the presure on Southwest to povide real answers.


    March 13, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Peter

    Unfortunately, we live in an era which does not require personal or organizational responsibility. In the case of the FAA, not much will change until there is an event with fatalities. The Bush administration has displayed little interest or competence for management of the government. Our country's first MBA president has been a huge disappointment in terms of his management of the wars, Katrina, financial market regulation, etc.

    As to Southwest, the CEO so far has not taken responsibility for the management failures or fired those within the airline responsible for maintenance. If this had been a Japanese company, someone might have accepted responsibility and resigned.

    Unfortunately our governmental regulators work in a dsyfunctional organization so looking to the FAA for improvements is pointless.

    Consumers can only bring about change by 'voting' their wallet. Next time you make travel plans, spend a few dollars more and avoid Southwest Airlines. Don't expect 'W' to intercede on behalf of the traveling public. In Washington, the citizens always come last.

    March 13, 2008 at 9:22 am |
  3. margie virginia beach virginia

    I say you go Oberstar...you hold the FAA accountable....mistake once shame on me ..mistake twice shame on you......

    March 12, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  4. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Drew,
    Why can't the Ceo's of Southwest be arrested for reckless endangerment! That would send a message loud and clear.
    You'd probably see the rest of the airlines JUMP into line if they saw that coming their way.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    March 12, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  5. Cindy

    I can't even believe that these planes were even allowed to be flown all that time when they could have easily malfunctioned. What is up with a system that finds problems yet looks the other way and allows millions of peoples lives to be put at risk? There is just NO excuse for that! Now who will lose their head over this one!? I hope someone because this was just an EXTREME lack of judgment by someone!! Please look into this and give us all the dirt!

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 12, 2008 at 7:15 pm |