Since the Boeing 737 Max scandal, critics argue that the Federal Aviation Administration is too chummy with the industry its supposed to regulate. Now, another major player in the aviation industry, and a federal regulator, are facing criticism. After a nearly two-year investigation, the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general is raising questions about the culture of safety at Southwest Airlines, and of the FAA’s oversight over that Dallas-based company.
Dallas Morning News aviation reporter Kyle Arnold says the inspector general’s investigation began after a Southwest Flight 1380 accident, when a woman was killed when a window broke, causing her to be partially sucked out of the plane.
“This really launched that whole series of investigations into Southwest, their safety plan and, eventually, what the FAA is doing to make sure that they’re following that,” Arnold says.
The inspector general concluded that Southwest continues to fly its aircraft despite safety concerns.
Arnold says the FAA is usually quite strict with its rules, and with the documentation it requires when it’s monitoring airplane safety and maintenance. But the inspector general says the FAA didn’t always do that with Southwest.
“In one instance, [Southwest] submitted the reviews to the FAA, and 71 of those were approved in a single day,” Arnold says. “It should take about three weeks to four weeks to do that.”
Southwest denies accusations of lax safety.
“They said they have a great safety culture,” Arnold says. “They point back at their long history of not having any plane crashes that have resulted in fatality.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.