Southwest Airlines Co. will pay up to $8.3 million to settle claims that it violated certain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintenance and airworthiness requirements. The U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the settlement, which resolves a suit filed in a Washington federal court in 2014 alleging the airline did not follow required maintenance directives for certain Boeing 737 aircraft between 2006 and 2009, and again in 2012, as well as other pending administrative matters, the DOJ said.
The settlement will involve the airline paying a $2.8 million civil penalty and makinge operational changes to enhance its oversight of, and control over, its maintenance contractors. If Southwest does not implement those changes, it will be subject to up to an additional $5.5 million in deferred penalties, the announcement noted. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement:
Safety depends on compliance with our regulations. This agreement provides strong incentives for Southwest to take specific steps to address the compliance problems that the FAA investigations uncovered.
In its November 2014 complaint, the FAA had alleged Southwest violated its Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program, (CAMP), conditions and related FAA airworthiness directives, (ADs), which airlines are required to comply with unless they apply for and receive approval for an Alternative Method of Compliance, (AMOC). The agency pointed to three types of alleged maintenance violations, two of which involved maintenance on 44 Boeing 737 aircraft between 2006 and 2009, including fuselage maintenance carried out using improperly installed fasteners and improper support, or shoring, of those aircraft during maintenance. The fuselage of these jets use a patchwork of layered skin panels that must stand up to “extreme forces and massive variations in altitude and temperature” while supporting the weight of both the aircraft and its contents, and there had been a number of related ADs issued between 2002 to 2006, the FAA said.
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