Roads-2-Roam previously criticized the limitations of a ‘ rent an AP news story‘ model where a News outlet reports a base story such as “FAA seeks $12 million fine against Southwest“, but the details are provided by a centralized ‘news-lite’ AP release. The so called News outlet make tweak the AP release to make it appear as if it is theirs, but it many cases leave it as is.
In the 7/28 topical case about “FAA wanting to fine Southwest”, Roads-2-Roam saw the headline and wanted to learn more. We wanted to know why it was going to be fined.
Unfortunately,the top articles on new searches were the same AP base story despite it being different new sources. The more we read on different news sites despite minor changes, the more we recognized the same AP article.
Eventually we found a non-AP different article that picked apart the story under ‘aviationblog’ under Dallas Morning news, written by Terry Maxon. From the aviationblog article:
Here’s how we understand the allegations. It wasn’t that the modifications turned out to be unsafe. It was that Southwest’s contractor with Southwest oversight used a method that wasn’t approved at that time by the FAA, and that Southwest operated the modified aircraft knowing that the modifications hadn’t received FAA approval. From the FAA announcement:
“The FAA alleges that beginning in 2006, Southwest conducted so-called ‘extreme makeover’ alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA conducted an investigation that included both the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, Inc., (ATS) of Everett, Wash. Investigators determined that ATS failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage skins on these aircraft. FAA investigators also determined that ATS failed to follow required procedures for placing the airplanes on jacks and stabilizing them. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines, which was responsible for ensuring that procedures were properly followed.
“Southwest returned the jetliners to service and operated them when they were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations, the FAA alleges. The regulatory violations charged involve numerous flights that occurred in 2009 after the FAA put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance with either FAA Airworthiness Directives or alternate, FAA-approved methods of complying with the directives. The FAA later approved the repairs after the airline provided proper documentation that the repairs met safety standards.”
The FAA said Southwest operated the airplanes in question for more than 30,000 flights after the FAA became aware of the unapproved methods of work and before the FAA gave its okay to the repairs performed on the airplanes. We presume many more flights were operated before the FAA realized what had happened.