Has History Of Not Inspecting Aircraft For Cracks
By Mike Mitchell
April 8, 2011 - The GOP has proposed to cut $4 billion from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) budget. House Republicans have stated government can spend less on aviation oversight and still maintain air travel safety.
Rep. John Mica (R) Florida, Chairman of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the
FAA could reduce "bureaucratic staff" without harming
safety. Rep. Jerry Costello (D)
By offering the wealthy additional tax breaks the GOP has no choice but to make cuts in order to “bring down the deficit” even if it’s at the cost of the traveling public.
Democrats have stated the proposed cuts not only would cause the
layoff of hundreds of FAA workers, it would also force the FAA
to layoff safety inspectors and delay modernization of the
nation's air traffic system. As the GOP calls for less
government regulations and for business to self-regulate, one
wonders what would the GOP have said if they were on Southwest
Airlines Flight 812 which experienced an in-flight fuselage
rupture of 18 inches that led to a rapid depressurization of the
aircraft and oxygen masks were deployed. Why did this happen?
Lufthansa Technik helped Southwest Airlines migrate their Boeing
737 maintenance program to a new model that promised to be good
for business. In a press release, Lufthansa wrote, “The
significant reduction in the number of maintenance tasks results
in savings of up to 30 percent on maintenance costs, with less
time in the hangar corresponding to extra revenue-earning flying
hole ripped through the cabin of a Southwest Boeing 737-300
While the FAA has ordered a review of the agency’s older plane inspections, the union UNITE HERE today called on the FAA to also review how cost-reduction programs such as those pushed by Lufthansa pose risks to proper execution of existing FAA standards.
incident is not the first cause for concern from Southwest since the
airline instituted the revamped maintenance program with Lufthansa
Technik. In 2008, the FAA sought civil penalties against Southwest for
“flying planes that were not inspected for cracks.” Nicholas A.
Sabatini, the agency's associate administrator for aviation safety at
the time, said in the Washington Post, "The FAA is taking action against
Southwest Airlines for a failing to follow rules that are designed to
protect passengers and crew.”
had a long relationship with Southwest, dating at least back to a 2001
project to revamp Southwest’s maintenance management. Lufthansa Technik
still listed Southwest as a client as late as 2009.
Southwest Airlines has reported they have inspected 79 of its older Boeing 737 aircraft and have identified five aircraft that have cracks in their aluminum skin. Four 737 planes are being repaired and will most likely return back to service on Saturday and the fifth aircraft will be held back for additional maintenance.
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