FAA Mandates Plan for Southwest Airlines to Replace Unapproved Parts





FAA Mandates Plan for Southwest Airlines to Replace Unapproved Parts

By Mike Mitchell

September 5, 2009, The FAA has approved a plan that would require Southwest Airlines to replace unapproved parts installed on about 50 B-737 airplanes and for these aircraft to undergo inspections until fixes are made. The airline already has replaced parts on 30 other planes.

On August 21, a Federal Aviation inspector while inspecting a Southwest’s Boeing 737 aircraft in its maintenance facility discovered the airline was installing unapproved parts onto its aircraft. The unapproved parts were “exhaust gate assembly hinge fittings”. These fittings are used to deflect hot engine exhaust away from wing flaps.

Southwest’s maintenance company used hinge assemblies made by a subcontracting company that was not FAA certified to make the parts. As a result 46 of its planes, representing nearly 9 percent of the airline’s fleet was grounded temporality.


FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said, since the 1990s, federal regulations have prohibited knowingly operating a plane with unapproved parts, because untested parts could present potential safety hazards.

Since the initial inspection a FAA technical review has determined that the unapproved part would not prevent safe operation of the airplanes. The aircraft manufacturer has made a similar determination. As a result, the FAA has determined that the airline may continue to operate aircraft with the unapproved part until the parts can be replaced, on the condition that each plane must be physically inspected for wear and tear every seven days and the affected parts must all be replaced with an approved part by December 24, 2009.

The FAA has also directed Southwest Airlines to locate and dispose of any other unapproved parts made by the same vendor and to report on the results of its aircraft inspections to the FAA on a daily basis.

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