On Tuesday February 24th, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that Southwest Airlines would have to ground 128 of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The reason for this grounding is a missed inspection of the standby hydraulic system. The aircraft make up almost 20% of Southwest’s entire fleet.
Little by little, the airline voluntarily removed the aircraft from service and have begun the necessary maintenance inspections. A plan of action was made to complete all over due checks, with most coming over night, avoiding delays for passengers.
As of late Tuesday night, the FAA announced that Southwest could continue using the aircraft for 5 days while the checks are on going. Any that have not been checked would be grounded in order to have the inspections completed.
In a statement released by the airline, it was announced that over 80 flights were canceled on Tuesday due to the issue, but that there would be minimal disruption on Wednesday.
Southwest has had issues in the past when it comes to mechanical issues, but this is not the first time the airline has made national news because of it. In 2011 a flight had to make an emergency landing at Yuma International Airport as a 6 foot hole developed on the top of the fuselage causing a rapid decompression and a loss of pressure.
This is not the first time Southwest has been forced to ground aircraft due to structural deficiencies. In 2008, the airline grounded 38 aircraft because of cracks on the fuselage around windows. The aircraft were quickly inspected and put back into service.
Later, in 2011, after Southwest flight 812’s fuselage was severely damaged causing rapid decompression, the airline grounded 79 aircraft for inspections of their fuselages. These inspections caused significant delays and cancellations for the airline.