Southwest Airlines Caught Using Unapproved Parts in Nearly 9% of Fleet

August 27, 2009

(ChattahBox)—An investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration discovered unapproved parts used in Southwest’s Boeing 737 aircraft last Friday, which led to a grounding of 46 of its planes, representing nearly 9 percent of the airline’s fleet. After an investigation by FAA engineers, it was determined that the unapproved part didn’t pose a safety hazard and the planes were allowed to fly on a temporary basis, until the airline could replace the parts.

Since the 1990s, federal regulations have prohibited knowingly operating a plane with unapproved parts, because untested parts could present potential safety hazards. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said, “The parts have to come off the planes, it’s just a matter of how quickly that has to be done.” “Unapproved parts don’t belong on airplanes,” added Lunsford.

The unapproved parts called, exhaust gate assembly hinge fittings, which are used to deflect hot engine exhaust away from wing flaps, were discovered by the FAA in a maintenance facility. The maintenance company used hinge assemblies made by a subcontracting company that is not certified to make the parts.

The matter is still under investigation and it’s uncertain if Southwest would be subjected to any penalties for using unapproved parts.

Meanwhile, Southwest shares fell 8 cents to close at $8.60 Wednesday, amid the plane groundings and questions about unapproved parts on the airline’s planes.

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