Southwest Airlines voluntarily grounded 128 Boeing 737-700 aircraft yesterday after they discovered the airplanes somehow managed to miss a required inspection for the backup hydraulic system for the rudder. The FAA has allowed the airline to continue to fly the aircraft for up to five days while they are checked.

After discovering the missed inspection, the airline notified federal safety regulators and developed a plan to complete the overdue checks. Southwest ended up canceling about 80 flights Tuesday as a result of the situation. Southwest operates 447 of the 737-700s, a 143-seat airplane. That inspection lapse affects nearly 20 percent of its fleet of 665 airplanes.

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Late Tuesday night, the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to let the airline resume flying the planes while inspections are done, likely during overnight hours. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford confirmed that the agency approved the plan after talking with Southwest and Boeing, the manufacturer of the planes.

Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said the airline canceled about 80 flights Tuesday and expected to cancel up to 19 more on Wednesday while some inspections are done. She said the airline expected to finish "a good portion" of the inspections by Wednesday morning. The FAA approved the airline's plan to do the needed inspections over a five-day period.

Here's the official statement from Southwest Airlines:

Southwest Airlines discovered a required maintenance check on the standby hydraulic system, which serves as a back-up to the primary hydraulic systems, was overdue on 128 Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

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.

Late Tuesday evening, the FAA granted Southwest approval to continue operating the aircraft for a maximum of five days as the checks are completed.

Approximately 80 cancellations occurred Tuesday as Southwest awaited FAA's response. The airline is anticipating very minimal impact to its Wednesday operation as remaining checks are completed.

The safety of our customers and employees remains our highest priority, and we are working quickly to resolve the situation.

FAA had this statement:

Late Tuesday afternoon, Southwest Airlines notified the Federal Aviation Administration that it had missed some required inspections on the standby rudder system for 128 of its Boeing 737 aircraft.

The airline voluntarily removed these aircraft from service while the FAA works with Boeing and Southwest to evaluate a proposal that would allow the airline to continue flying the planes until the inspections are completed over the next few days.

This is not the first run-in the airline has had with the FAA regarding maintenance issues. Last year the FAA announced it will seek $12 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with Federal Aviation Regulations in three separate enforcement cases related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners operated by the Dallas-based airline. Southwest agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle with the FAA.

Photo: TOSP / Shutterstock


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