Southwest Hired FAA Inspector To Approve Aircraft During Government Shutdown
By Sharelle Burt
The government shutdown put the travel industry in a jam. Airports had to close terminals early, many flights were canceled, TSA agents weren’t showing up to work and the worst of them all, government workers weren’t paid.
Southwest Airlines wasn’t letting one bad situation stop their show. The airline hired one Federal Aviation Administration employee to give a much-needed safety inspection to three aircraft, paying them $3,150.00. The lucky employee was more than grateful for the work since the FAA was one of the many administrations not getting paid.
The hired help needed to come in for three hours to sign the required paperwork, but the inspection had to be done. “The FAA and Southwest entered into a reimbursable agreement to provide minimal time to complete aircraft certification services,” an agency spokesman said. “These services were completed only after meeting immediate operational safety needs.” It wasn’t easy putting the agreement together. FAA managers and lawyers had to sit down together with Southwest to create a formal agreement. They agreed to move forward since “the move complied with laws and regulations restricting agency functions while the budget impasse dragged on.”
At first, the inspector was worried about instructions for the safety inspection but asked his union, the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, for help. After clarity, the three Boeing Co. 737 MAX jets were approved. “I have never heard of anything like that before,” veteran FAA inspector Ray Morgan said. Morgan said this stunt allowed Southwest to get ahead of the game and “get an advantage over the rest of the industry.”
Reports said that other airlines were upset at the news since they were unsuccessful in getting FAA to move around on their safety inspections. Delta Air Lines had to delay the debut of four new Airbus SE A220 aircraft because FAA inspectors weren’t available. Guess they didn’t move quickly enough.