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Tue, Sep 01, 2009

Southwest Airlines Must Replace Parts By Tuesday, Extension Sought From FAA

Unapproved Parts Found On 82 Airplanes, Contractor Suspended

With a Tuesday deadline looming large, Southwest Airlines told federal regulators Monday that unapproved parts may have been installed on twice as many aircraft as originally thought. The airline has suspended the maintenance company who procured the unapproved parts from a subcontractor.

The Associated Press is reporting that if the FAA does not grant Southwest an extension, it may be forced to ground some planes. The airline has already replaced the suspect parts in 25 aircraft, but says it need more time to find approved parts for the remaining aircraft. The FAA has said the parts do not pose an immediate safety hazard. They direct hot exhaust from the engines away from the wings of the airplanes.

But the airline admits the parts were obtained from a company that is not approved for work by the FAA. Southwest originally thought 46 planes were affected, but spokeswoman Beth Harbin said Monday further checking boosted that number to 82. "Southwest did an exhaustive audit of the vendor, and are comfortable we've found all the parts at issue," she said.

Without an extension of the Tuesday deadline, the FAA could require Southwest to ground the planes, making up about 10 percent of the airline's 373 fleet. When the problem was initially found August 22nd, Southwest cancelled 15 flights and experienced significant delays at many airports around the country.

FMI: www.southwest.com

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