The airline has agreed to a $7,500,000.00 fine for neglecting proper safety inspections - about a quarter less than the FAA had originally assessed in penalties.
The airline was fined for flying 46 airplanes on 59,791 flights without performing mandatory inspections for fuselage cracks. The planes, mostly Boeing 737s, carried an estimated 145,000 passengers.
Federal investigations revealed that FAA's cozy regulatory climate with airlines led to the suppression of whistle-blower complaints against Southwest. Once uncovered, the complaints led to stepped-up inspection efforts of all carriers' maintenance records and hundreds of planes being grounded in early 2008.
The settlement agreement also requires Southwest to pay an additional $7.5 million if it does not accomplish 13 safety-related steps, including:
_Increasing by eight the number of on-site technical representatives the airline has at companies that perform major maintenance on its airplanes.
_Allowing FAA inspectors improved access to information used for tracking maintenance and engineering activities.
The full story is here.
And for those of you that dismiss the fine and settlement as excessive caution, there's this, and this, and this, and this.
* see my earlier post "Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go to the Airport"