SWA letters to

jetflier

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These letters are from another board, and do bring some topics up for debate.

I have been flying commercial aircraft around the world for nearly twenty years. Additionally, I am a veteran of US Naval Service. In my years of flying experience, I have observed Southwest Airlines operate on the barest margins of safety. Their corporate culture encourages cutting corners and pressing margins of safety to gain an economic edge. I have watched as SWA aircraft routinely taxi at unsafe speeds and ignore tower instructions to hold at intersections or slow down, in order to beat other aircraft into position for gates and runway departures. The corporate culture at SWA has emboldened and encouraged breaking the rules in order to get ahead.

SWA has built a financial incentive into it’s pilot’s pay structure that encourages this type of unsafe aircraft operation. They have also curried favor with FAA Air Traffic Controllers with parties and gifts, which has encouraged the Controllers to overlook SWA’s Pilot’s infractions. On many instances I can remember, when an SWA aircraft is issued instructions to hold short to allow another aircraft to pass, or to slow down, those instructions have been ignored. The SWA aircraft continues as if the instruction was not heard, and no enforcement action ensues.

Southwest Airlines’ corporate mindset of cutting corners in order to gain an advantage has once again come to light with the revelation that SWA has knowingly used illegal replacement parts in more than 80 of it’s Boeing 737 jets. These parts were built by a company that did not have FAA authorization to make these parts, at the request of SWA. Because of SWA’s overt decision to circumvent the regulatory authority of the FAA, these jets flew with unsafe airframe parts for three years.

Yesterday, SWA announced that an agreement had been reached with the FAA to “fix” the problem. The correction plan included no grounding of aircraft, no criminal probe, an extended period of time to remove the bad parts (while the jets continue to fly), and no fine whatsoever.

Gentlemen, knowing SWA’s corporate culture of cutting corners, their cozy relationship with the FAA, and their history of currying favor with Controllers and Inspectors, I fear that safety has been compromised and that SWA will continue to operate outside the regulatory envelope. I am truly concerned that the corporate culture that allowed this type of breach has not been addressed, and that without punishment, future safety will be compromised. I must address the concern that this is only the most recent issue in a long history of issues, and may only be the tip of the iceburg with respect to SWA’s maintenance issues.

Additionally, there rises the issue of fairness in the regulatory arena. Please recall when it was discovered that newly replaced wiring bundles onboard American Airlines’s MD-80 aircraft were zip-tied at an incorrect spacing interval, the entire MD-80 fleet was GROUNDED until they could be inspected and the problem corrected. And this was not a purposeful breach, nor was it an emergent safety-of-flight issue, unlike the use of illegal and unapproved parts in this instance.

By embarking on this course, SWA has operated outside the regulatory envelope of the FAA. Because of this, it operates at an economic advantage in the marketplace. SWA can offer lower fares because their maintenance costs are lower... because they aren't performing the required maintenance in the required fashion, using approved parts. SWA has a documented history of operating outside the regulations, and in my opinion, has never truly been forced to take responsibility for it's actions, or lack thereof.

The way in which the FAA has handled this latest fiasco smacks of obvious favoritism; the history of parties and gifts indicates that SWA may have bought it’s way out of it’s maintenance crimes. I use the term “crimes” very specifically in this case, because I believe that willful disregard of Federal Aviation Regulations to be a criminal act.

Sir, I fear for the safety of all passengers riding on a Southwest Airlines aircraft today. I believe that every SWA aircraft should be grounded immediately and inspected for illegal and unapproved parts and for compliance with all maintenance procedures. Cost should NOT be a factor in this decision, nor should economic damage to the corporation. The aviation industry is the most regulated industry in the world… for a reason. Lives depend on each airline self-regulating and following the rules. SWA’s conscious and purposeful abrogation of the rules indicates that the system designed to keep SWA customers safe while traveling has failed. There is currently no way to ensure that SWA aircraft are safe without a thorough inspection of each and every one, and of the maintenance procedures that have been performed on each one.

It is my hope that you will grasp the enormity of this emergent problem and begin the process of investigating the FAA’s regulatory favoritism and abrogation of it’s duties. The public should be made aware of the true issues surrounding SWA’s aircraft maintenance.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I do believe that time is of the essence and that lives are at stake.
 

jetflier

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Here's another one :

As a professional pilot with 22 years of flying experience, I am appalled to read the attached press release that the Federal Aviation Administration is letting Southwest Airlines operate aircraft with unapproved parts until Dec 24th, 2009.
[See below press release]

I disagree with the FAA's assertion that it is allowable for Southwest to use unapproved parts for limited time. This sets a horrible precedent in terms of safety. Either these parts are known to be safe via certification or they are not. These planes need to be grounded until the proper parts can be installed. Given the FAA's past proclivity to ground aircraft when maintenance irregularities are discovered, it is unconscionable that Southwest is given permission to keep flying these affected planes. These actions make one question whether the FAA is dealing in an honest, fair and competent manner.

It appears to me, that the FAA exercises selective enforcement or non-enforcement with certain airlines. Southwest seems to be enjoying extra leniency. Just last year, the FAA inspectors discovered Southwest failed to perform required inspections on their plane's rudder system. [The Boeing 737 aircraft type which Southwest operates has had a long history of rudder problems.] In last year's incident, Southwest even attempted to cover up the oversight and obstruct the FAA's investigation by requesting FAA inspectors Boutris and Peters assigned to Southwest be removed. FAA inspectors Boutris and Peters reported Southwest's violations to their supervisors, but nothing at the top levels of the FAA was done. FAA inspectors Boutris and Peters subsequently sought protection under the Federal Whistle Blowers Act.

Contrast last year's incident involving the Southwest rudder inspections with another incident at two different airlines occurring around the same time. Both Delta and American operate MD-80 series aircraft. The FAA, in a stepped up inspection protocol following it's embarrassing incident with the Southwest rudder inspections , determined that the spacing and direction of cords used to secure bundles of wires in the MD-80 series aircraft's auxiliary hydraulic systems was not to their liking despite the fact there were no previous safety related incidents. The FAA ordered these planes grounded, unlike in the Southwest incident where it allowed Southwest's planes to keep flying. In short, Southwest does something wrong which embarrasses the FAA, so the FAA goes on the war path, and ends up punishing two other airlines. Hardly seems fair.


In a more glaring example of selective non-enforcement, ten years ago the FAA appeared to look the other way at Valuejet after that airline had a serious of numerous incidents, accidents, and violations. The FAA administrator at the time even went as far as to give a press conference on national TV stating the Valuejet was a safe airline. A few weeks later, Valuejet crashed killing all onboard. Selective enforcement sets a dangerous precedent.


Another issue the present Southwest case brings up is the use of outsourced maintenance. This practice makes it very difficult for the FAA to conduct proper inspections. Furthermore, when the maintenance is outsourced to a foreign country, FAA oversight is virtually impossible. This practice of outsourcing maintenance to needs to be severely curtailed if not made outright illegal.

The FAA needs to treat all airlines on a level playing field. Exceptions and favors should not be granted to certain airlines while being denied to others. Furthermore, outsourcing maintenance can only have a negative impact on safety. Saving a few dollars is not worth anyone's life. The FAA needs to encourage airlines to adhere to the highest levels of safety, not stoop to the lowest common denominator.

We need to have one level a safety for all aircraft operators. We need a FAA that is unbiased, reasonable, and effective. Please investigate the FAA's actions regarding inappropriate favoritism towards Southwest or any other particular airline. Furthermore, the FAA's effectiveness with regard to enforcing safety needs to be reviewed.
 

airlinepilot

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PURE BS and Flame Bait. SWA Has the best Safety record of any Major Airline that has been around for 38 years. You can spin it anyway you want. Maybe you need to learn how to "Hold Short"
 

jetflier

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These letters from another forum were reportedly sent to congress and the DOT. Call it FB...BS...whatever. The letters do bring up a lot of possible questions. The authors seem to have a handle on the info presented.

Your quote, "SWA Has the best Safety record of any Major Airline that has been around for 38 years", certainly raises a lot of eyebrows, that in itself seems like FB.

Maybe you can explain the, "Maybe you need to learn how to "Hold Short"" comment, or if you can't, then don't reply until you put down the beer :)
 

Jim Smyth

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Southwest takes "safety" very serious and its there #1 Mission Statement. Since your stirring the pot and obviously have a bone to pick with them, what airline do you fly for, Northwest? I would put Southwests safety record up against your airlines any day!
 

SELCAL checks

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The direct attack on SWA is a bit ignorant, since these authors obviously are not privy to the details and some of their core facts are incorrect. Also, I don't work at AA, but I believe the FAA did not ground those -80s, but it was self-imposed in order to avoid a larger financial penalty. However, that's pure conjecture on my part.

I think the issue of outsourcing MX is a vaild concern, and one for all airlines. Potential lapses in safety exist, and at a minimum, regulatory lapses that receive publicity probably cost an airline more in negative advertising than the savings achieved by the outsourcing.

I believe a strong safety culture exists at SWA. I'm relatively new here, but it's been my observation that we have 6,000 professionals flying our airplanes. Before I was hired, I knew the rumors and jokes about how SWA operates... but I haven't witnessed anything to back up those accusations on a single flight I've had at this airline.
 
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David Dixon

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How many beers did you drink last night when you wrote this. Go cut your grass and do something productive with your time.
 

Data

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They have also curried favor with FAA Air Traffic Controllers with parties and gifts, which has encouraged the Controllers to overlook SWA’s Pilot’s infractions. On many instances I can remember, when an SWA aircraft is issued instructions to hold short to allow another aircraft to pass, or to slow down, those instructions have been ignored. The SWA aircraft continues as if the instruction was not heard, and no enforcement action ensues.
God forbid you call Providence ground for pushback when Southwest is rolling out on 23. They hold you at the gate until Southwest gets by you on Tango. They held us the other day for 'traffic', about that time Southwest calls clearing 23. Sure as sh1t, we waited about 30 seconds for them to blow on by, thanks! Don't worry about us.
 

Cometman

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God forbid you call Providence ground for pushback when Southwest is rolling out on 23. They hold you at the gate until Southwest gets by you on Tango. They held us the other day for 'traffic', about that time Southwest calls clearing 23. Sure as sh1t, we waited about 30 seconds for them to blow on by, thanks! Don't worry about us.
I think that is using good judgment on the part of the controllers. Why would you let a small Cessna block a commercial aircraft with 130+ passengers on it. It is better to get the large aircraft in and then let you taxi back for your next take off.
 

SWA/FO

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Sure as sh1t, we waited about 30 seconds for them to blow on by, thanks! Don't worry about us.
What are you worried about? Its takes you 30 minutes to get to the runway. Can you HOMOs taxi any slower?
 

turn&pull

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Those letters were good for a laugh. Check the safety records guys...NO comparison.
 

GuppyWN

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I find that I can shave minutes off every day if I taxi well beyond the limits of our FAA approved FOM and ignore FAA controller instructions. It's worth it to me because I know the company would go to the mat to back a wild cowboy like me.

As an added bonus I find that flying right on the edge of Mach buffet and with the clacker going off not only makes me look cool to my passengers but ATC thinks I'm cool when I talk on the radio with said clacker in the background.

I'm a cowboy - on a REAL horse I ride. I'm wanted.... waaaanted.... dead or alive.

Gup
 

Daddy

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Hey jetflier,

Why dont you tell us how much better you guys are at NWA:

"A Northwest Airlines pilot's decision to shut down an engine, combined with a hydraulic problem, caused the May 2005 ground collision of two Northwest jets at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, federal investigators have concluded.
The Boeing DC-9 pilot's action just after landing in the Twin Cities meant that the plane lost all power to its steering, brakes and thrust reversers, causing it to strike an Airbus A319 that was being pushed back from a gate, according to a report issued last week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report detailed the events leading up to the accident and the investigation.
The DC-9, with 94 passengers on board, experienced problems with its right-side hydraulic system that powers its steering and brakes soon after leaving Columbus, Ohio. The captain decided to continue flying and declared an emergency as the plane neared the Twin Cities' airport.
After landing, the captain shut down the left engine, which powered the only fully functioning hydraulic system. As a result, the flight crew couldn't steer the plane or use the brakes and thrust reversers. The DC-9 hit a wing of the A319, with 38 passengers aboard, damaging the DC-9's cockpit and spilling fuel. Both planes were evacuated. The DC-9 pilot was seriously injured and seven passengers and crewmembers from both planes had minor injuries.
The NTSB report cited a "fatigue fracture" of the DC-9's rudder shutoff valve, which caused the loss of right-side hydraulic pressure, as a contributing factor in the accident.
Since the accident, Northwest developed an inspection procedure for its fleet in which "any rudder shutoff valve found to have a crack indication was replaced prior to further flight," said company spokesman Roman Blahoski. He declined to comment on the NTSB report.
A spokesman for Air Line Pilots Association at Northwest said the union could not comment on the report.
The NTSB report noted that Northwest recorded 38 instances of DC-9 rudder shutoff-valve housing failures from May 2000 to April 2005. "Northwest reported that they were aware of the cracked valve housings of the rudder shutoff valve prior to the accident" and after a 2003 analysis, according to the report. "The failure of the valve by itself was not determined to be a safety of flight issue and was therefore deemed solely a reliability issue."
 
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AFcitrus

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I find that I can shave minutes off every day if I taxi well beyond the limits of our FAA approved FOM and ignore FAA controller instructions. It's worth it to me because I know the company would go to the mat to back a wild cowboy like me.

As an added bonus I find that flying right on the edge of Mach buffet and with the clacker going off not only makes me look cool to my passengers but ATC thinks I'm cool when I talk on the radio with said clacker in the background.

I'm a cowboy - on a REAL horse I ride. I'm wanted.... waaaanted.... dead or alive.

Gup
Well.... At least you're man enough to admit it. Although I would advise you put those comments into an ASAP report.
 

LandGreen

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What are you worried about? Its takes you 30 minutes to get to the runway. Can you HOMOs taxi any slower?
Wow! You have just completely embarrassed, and partially destroyed the professional integrity of all SWA pilots with your post. Especially after most, if not all pilots at SWA, are trying to turn the corner and forget recent newsworthy events.

I hope your next CA will: Forbid you from talking on the radios, and lock up your laptop in an attempt to spare the rest of the SWA seniority list from public embarrassment on your behalf.
 

RedBelly

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I am sure the former NW airlines had the best maintenance around. They had the absolute newest aircraft in the shiny new DC-9's, combined with the 50+ years of experience of all of their replacement mechanics.

What state is Oberstar from?
 

waveflyer

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I've worked at 5 airlines and have 2 comments. The 4 previous all thought we had back channels to ATC. Ridiculous conspiracy theories. Never once considering the idea that maybe controllers are simply trying to move airplanes. I'll quote one controller I'm close with. 'damn right Swa gets priority. But it's no conspiracy, it's because they do what we ask them to- good or bad. Ask AA or UA anything and it's constant bellyaching. Vector out of the way for traffic- they're b!tching. Try to give them a short aproach it's 'unable- not safe-' you can't win. But Swa- if it can be done safely, they'll do it.'

ever thought that it's not about being cowboys- that it's your own attitudes on the line everyday that causes Swa to get favor? Maybe if you complained a little less and weren't so afraid to use your skill to do something that would help out (ie: instead of CONSTANTLY playing the safety card)- you'd get the breaks sometimes as well.
 
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