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Southwest Grounds 128 Jets Over Missed Inspections

The airline said it failed to inspect backup hydraulic systems used to control the rudder if the main system fails.
Image: File photo of Southwest Airlines jets waiting on the tarmac at Denver International Airport in Denver
Southwest Airlines jets wait on the tarmac at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, in this January 22, 2014 file photo. Southwest Airlines Co reported profit that beat analysts' expectations and projected significant savings from the cascading cost of fuel. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT)Rick Wilking / Reuters

Southwest Airlines on Tuesday announced it grounded 128 jets after it failed to inspect hydraulic systems designed to serve as a back-up in case of trouble with the aircraft’s rudder system.

"Once identified, Southwest immediately and voluntarily removed the affected aircraft from service, initiated maintenance checks, disclosed the matter to the FAA, and developed an action plan to complete all overdue checks," Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brandy King said in a statement.

Around 80 flights were cancelled Tuesday as a result of the missed checks on the Boeing 737s, Southwest said, and the airline expected a "very minimal impact" Wednesday.

The missed inspections were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Southwest said the planes were taken out of service, but also proposed a plan to the Federal Aviation Administration that it be allowed to fly the planes for up to five days while the checks are done.The FAA approved that plan, and the airline is free to carry passengers on those jets during that time, the FAA said.

The planes that missed required checks make up about one-fifth of Southwest’s fleet of 670 Boeing 737s.

Last month, the federal Transportation Department fined Southwest $1.6 million for violating rules barring long waits for passengers on jets sitting on runways. The department said the penalty was the largest ever levied against an airline for violating those rules. The airline at the time said the waits were due to winter weather.


— Phil Helsel