FAA Approves Southwest Plan Without Grounding Aircraft

Southwest Airlines reached a resolution with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which approved the carrier's plan to replace certain parts on flap exhaust gate assemblies on 82 of its Boeing 737-300 and -500 series aircraft. In a statement, Southwest said it has already begun an aggressive, yet safe and deliberate schedule to replace these parts on the affected aircraft.

Southwest has accomplished replacements on 43 aircraft to date. The remaining replacements will be made by December 24, with an inspection of the assembly every seven days on affected aircraft until the replacements are made. Southwest customers will not experience any impact to their flight plans as a result of the replacement schedule.

"We want to assure our customers that this situation is not about having unsafe parts on our airplanes," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's executive vice president and COO. "Our approved vendor subcontracted a machining function without appropriate written approval from FAA. As a result, the parts are considered unapproved and must be removed regardless of their quality. The parts have been inspected, and the FAA agrees that they meet the requirements of the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing. We concur that this plan is the best and most reasonable manner in which to fulfill the FAA's mandate."

Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 67 cities in 34 states. Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,200 flights a day.

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