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FAA Proposes Second Largest Fine In History Against Southwest

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — New fallout tonight, as the FAA is proposing the second largest fine in history against Southwest Airlines. The government says the airline did not follow regulations when repairing planes.

Mike Hellgren has more.

The FAA believes there wasn’t an immediate danger, but according to their guidelines, some of those planes should never have been in the air—yet they carried people on more than 30,000 flights.

The FAA is sending a message to Southwest with its proposed $12 million fine, saying the airline knew some of its 737 jetliners were not in compliance with FAA airworthiness standards but flew them anyway.

The problem involves maintenance to the planes’ aluminium skins. The FAA says a contractor did work that could have allowed gaps and corrosion, putting new sealant on the outer panels but failing to install fasteners quickly enough for that sealant to be effective.

“They were using an unapproved method to fix these aircraft,” said former FAA Spokesman Scott Brenner.

Southwest’s 737s have been at the center of several incidents in the past five years where holes have opened inside planes—including on a flight inbound for Baltimore in 2009—where the fuselage opened in mid-air. They resulted in emergency inspections and the grounding of some planes.

“There’s a loud bang and the masks drop and it’s really, really windy,” a passenger on that flight said at the time, April 4, 2011.

Southwest said none of the issues the FAA raised involve planes currently in service.

The airline claims it “resolved the repair issues some time ago” and that “safety is paramount.”

“When an airline goes off on its own and tries to do something new, that worries the FAA because that is not a proven method,” Brenner said.

The FAA administrator says he will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to follow regulations.

Southwest has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s allegations.

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