Southwest Airlines/FAA situation. A comment from down under.
Good grief. Have just spent a couple of hours reading as much as I could find on this bizarre situation. How on earth did such a fine carrier, with one of the best safety records in airline history, find itself so heavily in the proverbial. Facts: SWA operates many aged, high-time, high-cycle 737s. Many were developing fatigue and/or stress airframe cracks in the pressure hull. There was a quite sensible AD issued to inspect and repair cracks which allowed ample time to do the work or pull them out of the air. Neither of these options was followed. The cracking was not addressed and dozens of the affected machines just kept flying on, and on and on..... This was an illegal act, no matter who was to blame. I have not flown in the USA so do not know what is the format or the content of the ship's Tech Log. Were the pilots aware that they were operating aircraft with outstanding ADs? And had they known, would they all have continued to fly them? If a non-urgent AD cannot be met by the time-line, you have two options. Go to the FAA and request an extension, stating your case, or GROUND the aeroplane and fix the problem. Surely that is pretty simple decision making? But to me, I cannot help escape the (interim) conclusion that the arch-enemy, the Devil incarnate of aviation standards and safety, COMMERCIAL EXPEDIENCY, had systemically wormed its evil way into the bowels of this great carrier. What I do recommend is that both SWA and the FAA admit they had/have a joint problem. Scrub the fine and get on with the fix. Perhaps all air carriers can learn from this strange situation...I certainly hope so.