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The Department of Transportation has validated the allegations in several whistleblower complaints and the findings of two other investigations that the FAA mismanaged oversight of Southwest Airlines and looked the other way on many safety-related issues at the airline. Among the substantiated allegations are that dealing with Southwest was intimidating for FAA inspectors, that the airline failed to properly certify 88 Boeing 737s that it bought overseas and that there had been “interference on the part of FAA senior leadership” from 2018 through 2020 at the FAA oversight office in Irving, Texas, according to the Washington Post. The FAA examined the whistleblower claims and the results of probes by the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General and an investigation by the Senate Commerce Committee and determined that many of the claims were true. It issued its own report in April and it was released this week.

The FAA report also says that coziness between the FAA and Southwest went all the way to the top. That includes a close personal relationship between Southwest’s CEO and an unnamed former Acting FAA Administrator who had also served as Deputy FAA Administrator. The Acting Administrator during the time period covered by the report (2018-2020) was Daniel Elwell. He was succeeded by Steve Dickson in 2019.  The CEO of Southwest Airlines at the time was Gary Kelly, who retired last January after 20 years in that job.

The Post highlighted an incident in which a senior FAA safety official visited Southwest brass and apologized to the airline for the “heavy-handed” approach by some inspectors in the local office. The relationship between senior staff at the FAA and the airline was well-known to FAA inspectors and “this raised questions among inspectors about whether they would be allowed to perform their oversight responsibilities appropriately,” according to the FAA report. The agency is calling for an independent review of the Southwest Airlines Certificate Management Office, which oversees the airline.

The post FAA Admits Lax Oversight Of Southwest Airlines appeared first on AVweb.

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