Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is your plane safe?

Today, CNN reported that Southwest Airlines routinely flew at least 117 planes in violation of mandatory safety checks until as recently as a year ago, when an FAA inspector discovered that the airline had missed dozens of inspection deadlines. According to two FAA inspectors (who, as whistle-blowers, were unnamed in the article), the FAA not only knew about the violations, but also allowed Southwest to fly the planes without inspections to avoid disrupting Southwest's flight schedules. Does that mean it's okay to lose a plane here and there, as long as the rest of us arrive on schedule?

The inspections that Southwest ignored or delayed were intended to inspect for fuselage cracks and rudder control system problems, and were mandated because of past fatal crashes and incidents. To put it more plainly, the lapses meant Southwest was knowingly flying planes that had not been inspected for problems that had previously caused loss of life. What does that do for your confidence in the maintenance of our nation's commercial fleet?

Southwest flew more passengers in the U.S. than any other airline last year, which I suppose can now be interpreted to mean they risked more lives than any other airline last year. But then again, I suspect that where one airline is getting a pass from the FAA, others may also be getting the same treatment.

I'm flying next week, so I hope the discovery of these violations served as a wake-up call to the airlines to get their acts together.

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