Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FAA Allows Southwest to Continue Flying Planes that Missed Inspections

With the Chicago Dental Society's MidWinter Meeting happening this week, dentists from all over the country will be heading to The Windy City to see & enjoy one of the top 3 dental meetings in the US.

Because of that, I thought I'd make today's post about the FAA's decision yesterday regarding the Southwest fleet.

I will state the  most important part of this post right here: The FAA has ruled that the Southwest planes will be allowed to fly.

So if you are planning on Southwest to get you to Chicago, everything is just fine.

What's the news behind all of this?

Simply put, Southwest somehow missed doing an inspection on some of their jets.  The inspection was checking on a hydraulic system used to control the plane's rudder if the main system fails.  On Tuesday, Southwest somehow figured out the inspections had been missed.  Upon realizing the snafu, Southwest immediately grounded the involved planes and notified the FAA.

The grounding put 128 planes, about 20% of the planes the company owns, out of service.  That, of course, resulted in a scheduling nightmare of Stephen King proportions.

80 Southwest flights were cancelled on Tuesday and another 19 will probably be cancelled today (Wednesday February 25).  I've been traveling when something like this happens (for me it was control tower fire at Chicago's Midway) and believe me when I say the chaos and stress it creates is palpable.

I've got to give the FAA a pat on the back for what they did here.  Realizing the problems the grounding was causing, FAA consulted with Southwest and Boeing (the manufacturer of the aircraft involved) and gave the go ahead for the planes to continue to fly while the inspections were made.  The inspection process cannot be too involved as Southwest has stated "a good portion" of them have already been made and that more would be made overnight.

That means that the affect on passengers will be minimal.  That's great news for those of us involved in the Chicago MidWinter Meeting (I'm doing 2 lectures on Saturday).

This whole saga, while not without it stresses and angst, gives me a bit of a "feel good" moment.  By that I mean Southwest did the right thing when they realized what had happened.  Even though they knew there would be bad press, they grounded the planes and called the FAA.  They didn't try to hide it or do the inspections on the sly.  They owned up to the problem... and they fixed it.  They did the right thing & I respect that.  Too often today we see just the opposite.

For the FAA, they saw what would happen if one-fifth of the Southwest fleet was out of service.  They consulted with the plane's creator & fabricator, determined there was minimal risk, and worked with Southwest to make sure the inspections were done quickly while still keeping planes in the air.

A good handling of a tough situation by all involved.  Now let the Chicago MidWinter begin!!!

Oh, and if you are coming in for the meeting, bring warm clothes... it's cold here!

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