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Thread: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...2e20a.html?npc

    Southwest Airlines, FAA accused of falsifying safety reports

    House panel releases report that states Southwest, agency falsified safety records

    01:49 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News

    WASHINGTON – Officials for Southwest Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration "falsified the report" that said the airline had come into compliance with rules for crucial safety inspections for jets, according to records released by a U.S. House committee.

    That allegation appears in more than 90 pages of documents that suggest a culture of cronyism compromised the FAA's oversight of Southwest Airlines in Dallas. Two whistle-blowers said FAA supervisors and colleagues undermined their efforts to get Southwest to comply with federal directives.

    The FAA has fined Southwest $10.2 million for continuing to fly more than three dozen jets that were 30 months late for safety inspections and should have been grounded until the work was done. But the agency hasn't fired any employees over the incident, which has embarrassed the FAA and called into question its partnership approach to regulating airlines.

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters suggested Monday that more disciplinary actions could be handed down.

    "If any inspector failed in his or her responsibilities to the traveling public, they will be dealt with swiftly and severely," Ms. Peters told a conference in Washington. "There is simply no margin for error when it comes to the safety of our aviation system."

    A Southwest spokeswoman said the carrier hasn't reviewed the specifics of the whistle-blower complaints and couldn't comment on the allegations.

    Southwest first reported its failure to perform fuselage inspections on March 15, 2007. In a report approved by an FAA official in Irving, the airline said it had come into compliance – meaning it had stopped flying jets that required inspections.

    In fact, the airline continued to fly most of the jets for another eight days.

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistle-blower complaints, reported allegations in December that Southwest's regulatory official "falsely stated" and an FAA supervisor "falsely accepted" the airline's statement.

    "For them to indicate in a report that the carrier had grounded their airplanes until they finished their inspections, only for someone else to find out that they continued to fly, is a very serious situation," said Linda Goodrich, regional vice president of Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union representing safety inspectors.

    Failure to confirm

    Peggy Gilligan, the FAA's deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, said the FAA supervisor failed to confirm that Southwest had grounded the jets, but the agency hasn't determined whether he knowingly misled anyone.

    "All that is under review," Ms. Gilligan said.

    The FAA supervisor who approved the form, Douglas T. Gawadzinski, later told FAA investigators that "there was never a concern with the airworthiness of the aircraft," according to an April 18 memo from FAA investigators.

    Those investigators concluded that Mr. Gawadzinski's statement was absurd because six of the jets were found to have cracks – some as long as 3.5 inches. But they couldn't conclude that Mr. Gawadzinski allowed Southwest's jets to keep flying to "provide relief to schedule the inspections at the airline's convenience," according to the memo.

    Mr. Gawadzinski, of North Richland Hills, declined to comment. The FAA has transferred him from the office overseeing Southwest Airlines.

    According to one of the whistle-blowers, Mr. Gawadzinski stopped being strict with Southwest after a former FAA colleague, Paul Comeau, joined the airline. Previously, the whistle-blower said, the FAA had forced jets needing inspections to stop flying.

    'Cozy relationship'

    "His position directly interfaces with our office on a daily basis in regard to regulatory compliance issues," the whistle-blower, C. Bobby Boutris, wrote. "It is obvious that the cozy relationship between Gawadzinski and Comeau played a contributing factor ... and allowed 47 aircraft to fly paying passengers with a known unsafe condition."

    Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has largely supported the inspectors' claims.

    Mr. Oberstar, D-Minn., will chair a congressional hearing about the FAA's partnership approach to oversight in early April.

    Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D- Dallas, said Monday that she's concerned the FAA "has been pretty derelict to not follow their guidelines." Southwest hasn't directly contacted her, although the airline has spoken with her staff, Ms. Johnson said.

    "Anytime that the relationship [between carrier and regulator] is such that it could subject passengers to unsafe conditions, it's time for something to be done about it," said Ms. Johnson, who chairs one of the committee's sub-panels.

    At a news conference Friday, Mr. Oberstar said he might propose a law prohibiting FAA inspectors from going to work for the airlines for a year or two. He also called for inspectors to be rotated between assignments "as a countermeasure against developing a cozy relationship" with airline employees.
    Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said last week that the self-reporting system is beneficial because it encourages carriers to disclose problems without fearing punishment.

    "You need to have an environment where you can be honest and not have to fear retaliation or intimidation," Mr. Kelly said. "If errors are suppressed by fear, that is a far, far worse result in the safety environment."

    The records unveiled Monday suggest that other inspectors' attempts to investigate Southwest were compromised.

    An internal investigation into the way Mr. Gawadzinski handled Southwest's violations was leaked to the airline, according to a second inspector who spoke with congressional investigators.

    Mr. Boutris was removed from his oversight position after an anonymous complaint was made to Southwest about him; Mr. Boutris told investigators that the inquiry lasted seven months and resulted in no discipline.

    Ms. Goodrich said Mr. Oberstar's investigation, as well as an earlier investigation into similar problems at Northwest Airlines, have caused more inspectors to come forward with claims that supervisors have quashed or limited their investigations.

    "We have had people literally come out of the woodwork saying I have a similar issue," said Ms. Goodrich. "I think we are going to be hearing other people coming forward."
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  3. #2
    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Uhh.......opps.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Speaking of cozy, isn't there a very large airline headquartered in Mr. Oberstar's state that might like to see people stop flying Southwest? That's something to keep in mind if his committee holds a splashy hearing over this issue.

    Southwest has a pretty good explanation for not doing the inspections it was supposed to. The software that keeps track of all of those inspections was programmed incorrectly and the FAA people doing the oversight (who had joined the FAA after stints at Southwest) simply overlooked the issue instead of calling it to the attention of people at the airline who could correct the problem. Even the FAA admits that there was no evidence of a coverup or attempt to deceive on Southwest's part. The only question is whether there remained a connection between the airline and Gawadzinski.
    Last edited by Unassisted; 03-11-2008 at 06:05 PM.
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    Member MasonBuzz3's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    flying Southwest from cleveland to phoenix in a few weeks......they should be on top of their game now though

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by MasonBuzz3 View Post
    flying Southwest from cleveland to phoenix in a few weeks......they should be on top of their game now though
    MasonBuzz3:

    Rem

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Well, this gives me something to look forward to for my flight tomorrow. Just as we enter the 'spring break' period when the planes are packed. Oh boy, can't wait.

    Rem


    http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080312/faa_s..._airlines.html


    Southwest Grounds 41 Jets
    Wednesday March 12, 1:35 pm ET
    By David Koenig, AP Business Writer
    Southwest Airlines Grounds 41 Jets After Missing Required Inspections for Structural Cracks


    DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines grounded 41 planes overnight -- about 8 percent of its fleet -- in the wake of its recent admission that it had missed required inspections of some planes for structural cracks.

    Southwest shares fell 4 percent in midday trading.

    Southwest spokeswoman Christi Day said Wednesday that the move to ground 41 planes resulted in some flights being canceled, although she didn't have a precise figure.

    The company said it had 520 Boeing 737 jets at the end of last year. Nearly 200 of them are older models, the Boeing 737-300, that were supposed to undergo extra inspections for cracks in the fuselage.

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    I'm not defending Southwest, but if people really new about the maintenance situation on most jets in the US fleet they'd likely never fly again.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    I'm not defending Southwest, but if people really new about the maintenance situation on most jets in the US fleet they'd likely never fly again.
    Until flying becomes demonstrably less safe than driving, I'll have no second thoughts hopping on a plane.

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Red View Post
    Until flying becomes demonstrably less safe than driving, I'll have no second thoughts hopping on a plane.
    And when there are as many airline flights as automobiles on the highway at any given time then such a comparison will make sense.

    I love to fly, do it all the time. Would never consider not flying. Have an extensive library on commerical airliners and what causes them to stop doing what they do so well.

    But if the average flyer knew the average age of the fleet, the huge number of things that can go wrong on any given aircraft, and how maintenance procedures can sometimes get very "creative" I think it would give people pause.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    And when there are as many airline flights as automobiles on the highway at any given time then such a comparison will make sense.
    There are generally only two ways to get somewhere that's a long distance away: drive or fly. One has to decide between the two. So the safety comparison makes plenty of sense.

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Red View Post
    There are generally only two ways to get somewhere that's a long distance away: drive or fly. One has to decide between the two. So the safety comparison makes plenty of sense.
    No, actually it doesn't.

    You are comparing the accident rate of cars where there are hundred of millions of cars on the road to commerical air travel where there are several thousand of flights per day.

    You can't compare the numbers of each because there are literally hundreds of millions of more chances for auto crashes. Of corse it's going to come out as being "less safe". That doesn't change the fact that flying is still a dangerous proposition that doesn't take much for a crash to take place.

    I'm not anti-comerical aviation. It's a pseduo-hobby and passion of mine. But to fall back on the "Flying is the Safest Way to Fly" tripe misses the point that commerical aviation is, in fact, much more dangerous than it appears. That there aren't airplanes falling out of the sky is a testiment to the pilots and mechanics, but to think everything up there is hunky-dory is pollyanna.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    I'm not defending Southwest, but if people really new about the maintenance situation on most jets in the US fleet they'd likely never fly again.
    Here's what you said. In fact, until planes start falling out of the sky, most people really wouldn't stop flying, because no matter what the maintenance situation is, flying is still many times safer than driving.

    Unless you think people are irrational morons (probably true in many cases), people would keep flying until it's no longer much, much safer than driving.

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    By the way, here are the stats:

    If we ignore property and bodily damage and focus on fatalities only, we
    should look at fatality rates per passenger mile traveled. This require some
    research. You can go to the National Transportation Safety board website
    (http://www.itsasafety.org) to do some research or look at a summary table
    here (http://hazmat.dot.gov/riskcompare.htm). According to the latter, each
    year in the US 1 out of 6800 drivers dies in an auto accident. The rate for
    airline passengers is 1 in 1.6 million.

    http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasc...9/gen99845.htm

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Red View Post
    Here's what you said. In fact, until planes start falling out of the sky, most people really wouldn't stop flying, because no matter what the maintenance situation is, flying is still many times safer than driving.
    Tell you what, take the current US commercial fleet, and have them make as many flights per day as there are automobile trips per day. Same number of pilots, same number of mechanics, same maintenance schedules, same air traffic control system, same number of flight paths, same weather conditions, etc.

    Now explain to the us how the airline safety record isn't going to get worse and how the safety records compare....
    Last edited by Ltlabner; 03-12-2008 at 09:23 PM.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Might want to think twice about flying Southwest Airlines

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    Tell you what, take the current US commercial fleet, and have them make as many flights per day as there are automobile trips per day. Same number of pilots, same number of mechanics, same maintenance schedules, same air traffic control system, same number of flight paths, same weather conditions, etc.

    Now explain to the us how the airline safety record isn't going to get worse.....
    Well, since that's not reality, why would we worry about that? You said people would stop flying if they knew what was currently going on. Since in the current situation flying has been shown to be safer than driving, I just think you're wrong that most people would just all of a sudden give up flying to drive long distances. I guess some people might forgo trips they otherwise would have taken....


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