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February 26, 2015

Southwest Airlines grounds 128 uninspected planes

Southwest Airlines grounds 128 uninspected planes

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A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737–700. From file.
Image: Kevinboydston.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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The US carrier Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, announced grounding 128 planes on Tuesday because the planes had not be adequately inspected.

Company spokesperson Brandy King explained backup hydraulic systems of 128 of the company’s Boeing 737-700s should have been inspected sooner. The systems overdue for inspection back up the main rudder control systems.

King said the the incident is inadvertent and emphasised the airline’s commitment to safety. The airline decided to ground the planes involved in the missed inspections and notified the authorities.

As of last year, Southwest Airlines’ fleet had around 665 Boeing 737s. The uninspected planes incident involves about twenty percent of its fleet, and caused the airline to cancel about 80 flights on Tuesday, with possibly another 19 cancellations yesterday.

Following the airline’s actions, the Federal Aviation Administration ruled grounding of the planes is not mandatory provided inspections are completed within five days.



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November 26, 2014

FAA: NextGen Upgrade for Washington, D.C. metro area in place for holiday travel this week

FAA: NextGen Upgrade for Washington, D.C. metro area in place for holiday travel this week

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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FAA Seal

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Sunday that a NextGen airspace upgrade for the Washington, D.C. metro area would be in place in time for the holiday travel week. The FAA said this will improve the efficiency of air travel in this area.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this upgrade highlights the difference the federal government is making in air travel. He also said this upgrade will improve on-time performance and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said with the busy holiday travel season approaching, it is important to get travelers to their destination safely and on time.

The D.C. metroplex now includes three Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs) that allow aircraft to descend smoothly to the airport, as opposed to a staircase-style decent. This reduces fuel burn during decent because every time an aircraft levels off, it needs to burn more fuel for each step in the descent. The FAA said it will benefit three major airports in the area: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore–Washington International Airport (BWI).

In a video describing the OPDs in D.C., Brian Townsend, a tech pilot and captain for American Airlines, said this gliding down approach will be more environmentally friendly than the traditional approach.

This initiative at the D.C. metroplex involves collaboration by United, Southwest, and American Airlines and some labor unions, and is also an effort to improve efficiency for aircraft arriving and taking off from surrounding airports such as Joint Base Andrews, Richmond International Airport, and other small airports in this region.

The agency announced yesterday it has finished the work for the NextGen system in D.C. NextGen is a replacement for the ground-radar-based system that has been in operation since World War Two. They also completed a NextGen metroplex project in North Texas last week. The NextGen system is expected to cost billions of dollars to implement and the FAA funding is expected to expire in late 2015. Lawmakers, however, are holding hearings to possibly extend the funding window next year.

NASA is also conducting studies of the NextGen System. Researchers are using a brand new laboratory to test NextGen’s operations with simulated flights. They plan also to put unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System.

According to the National Weather Service, a storm system originating over the Gulf of Mexico flowing to the Northeast region of the U.S. may affect travel this week, bringing heavy snow, rain, and winds.



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April 24, 2011

Tornadoes damage hundreds of Missouri homes, force closure of airport

Tornadoes damage hundreds of Missouri homes, force closure of airport

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Disasters and accidents

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Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon talks to residents of Berkeley, Missouri, while touring affected neighborhoods.
Image: Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The main terminal of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, before tornado damage.
Image: Matthew Hurst.

An EF4 tornado struck near St. Louis, Missouri Friday night, forcing the closure of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and damaging over 2,700 buildings in St. Louis County. The National Weather Service also confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in neighboring St. Charles County and an EF2 touched down in Pontoon Beach, Illinois.

The city of Bridgeton, in North St. Louis County, was hit by the EF4 tornado. According to the National Weather Service, it was the most powerful tornado to touch down in the St. Louis region since 1967, with winds ranging from 166 and 200 miles (267 and 322 kilometres) per hour. Aftereffects of that tornado were also reported in Maryland Heights, Missouri.

One official estimated that anywhere from 50 to 200 homes in the Maryland Heights and Bridgeton areas incurred damage, but early numbers released by St. Louis County indicate that over 2,000 buildings in those two cities had suffered “noticeable damage,” which does not include minor damage. Around 30,000 people in the region did not have power Saturday, out of a total of 47,000 affected residents.

Authorities with search and rescue dogs went door-to-door Saturday, looking for possibly trapped residents. Aerial imagery was being used in damage assessment. Area residents unaffected by the tornado were assisting those that lost their homes, reported St. Louis television station KSDK.

The Harmann Estates neighborhood of Bridgeton was heavily damaged during the storm, with many residences losing roofs and siding. Officials have already condemned some of the subdivision’s homes. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley reported 25 homes in Bridgeton and Berkeley, Missouri as being completely destroyed and an additional 35 as uninhabitable.

Granite City, Illinois was struck by the EF2 tornado, while New Melle, Missouri was hit by the EF1. Fourteen New Melle homes sustained minor damage, while four were heavily damaged.

The storm also caused the temporary shutdown of two major St. Louis highways. Portions of Interstate 70 and Interstate 270 were closed Friday night due to fallen power lines and storm debris. Both blocked sections have since reopened, but officials said it would take a few days to remove all the debris, which they pushed onto the roadsides.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which is immediately west of Berkeley, suffered heavy damage Friday night from the same tornado, and was forced to halt all regular operations Saturday while crews worked to clear the affected terminals. Eight flights had been forced to land in Kansas City, Missouri Friday night due to the tornado. About 500 people were in Lambert Airport when the tornado hit. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson said other US airports were not affected by Lambert’s shutdown. Lambert is not an airline hub and is significantly less busy than it was ten years ago.

In a Saturday press conference, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Lambert’s director, said the airfield and Terminal 2 were “fully functional,” but the main terminal’s Concourse C had been severely impacted by the storm. That terminal, which sustained the heaviest damage, serves Air Tran, American Airlines, Cape Air, and Frontier Airlines. The total cost of repairs at Lambert is expected to be in the millions of dollars, but Hamm-Niebruegge said the airport does not yet have a good estimate.

Cquote1.svg It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying. Cquote2.svg

—Witness at Lambert Airport

One passenger of a waiting plane at Lambert told KSDK that heavy winds pushed the aircraft about 20 feet (6.1 metres) while it was still attached to the gate. Two other planes on the tarmac were unable to return to the airport, so passengers were bused back. Five planes—four operated by American and one by Southwest Airlines—suffered damage, and some will undergo major repairs.

Some travelers inside the airport received medical attention for minor injuries caused by flying glass. A handful of people were transported to a local hospital for additional treatment, but all were later released. “We get to the terminal and lights were out, glass everywhere, blood everywhere from people had been cut,” recalled one witness. Another person at the airport reported, “The ceiling was falling. The glass was hitting us in the face. Hail and rain were coming in. The wind was blowing debris all over the place. It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying.”

On Saturday, it was evident that Concourse C would not be open for some time, said Mayor of St. Louis Francis Slay. A large section of its roof was missing and around half of its windows had been blown out by the high winds. Debris and water from the storm were present inside the airport as crews worked to restore power and assess damage to the terminal. Missing windows had been boarded up, ruined carpet had been removed, and the control tower was functional by Saturday afternoon. The power was back on by 7:40 p.m. CDT (00:40 UTC) that evening.

The airport resumed outgoing flight services Sunday, although several incoming flights landed at Lambert Saturday evening. Slay said the airport will be running at 70 percent capacity until mid-week, depending on the availability of airline crew members and planes. Airlines using Concourse C will have their operations temporarily relocated, he added. On Sunday, Southwest was operating at normal capacity, while AirTran moved to Concourse B and canceled four of its eleven scheduled flights. A spokesperson for American said the airline would have planes ready for normal Monday operations. American had previously canceled all St. Louis flights scheduled for Sunday.

Cquote1.svg It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing Cquote2.svg

—St. Louis, Missouri mayor Francis Slay

On Saturday afternoon, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon arrived at Lambert and visited areas devastated by the tornado. He originally planned to tour Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, and Berkeley, but Nixon was only able to tour Berkeley due to an approaching line of storms. While in St. Louis, the governor said 750 Missouri homes had been damaged by Friday’s tornadoes and that federal assistance was forthcoming. Nixon reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was involved in assessing storm damage, as well as that US President Barack Obama had already contacted him, promising relief funds. US Representative Lacy Clay, said Saturday that he would brief Obama on the situation.

The state declared the affected areas of St. Louis County a disaster area. No one has reported serious injuries or deaths as a result of the storm, although some people were treated for minor injuries. “It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing,” Slay said.



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April 2, 2011

Southwest Airlines flight diverts due to \’rapid decompression in the cabin\’

Southwest Airlines flight diverts due to ‘rapid decompression in the cabin’

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Southwest Airlines Flight 812 carrying 118 passengers between Phoenix, Arizona and Sacramento, California was forced to divert to the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station in Arizona, after a hole appeared in the top of the aircraft; the plane landed safely at Yuma.

The plane was forced to make an emergency descent down to 11,000 feet and reportedly descended 16,000 feet in one minute. One passenger identified as Cindy said, “[t]hey had just taken drink orders when I heard a huge sound and oxygen masks came down and we started making a rapid decent. They said we’d be making an emergency landing. There was a hole in the fuselage about three feet long. You could see the insulation and the wiring. You could see a tear the length of one of the ceiling panels.”

In a statement issued by Southwest Airlines they informed that, “Southwest Airlines Flight 812, the scheduled 3:25 pm departure from Phoenix to Sacramento today, diverted to Yuma, Ariz due to loss of pressurization in the cabin. Upon safely landing in Yuma, the flight crew discovered a hole in the top of the aircraft. There are no reported Customer injuries. One of the Flight Attendants, however, received a minor injury upon descent.”

Southwest Airlines have provided a replacement aircraft to take the 118 passengers to Sacramento. The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed it is investigating “an in-flight fuselage rupture.”



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September 27, 2010

Southwest Airlines to purchase AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion

Southwest Airlines to purchase AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion

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Monday, September 27, 2010

A Southwest Airlines aircraft. Currently, the airline only serves the US market; however, if they successfully purchase AirTran Airways they will gain international routes to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Image: Luiz Eduardo.

An AirTran airplane. The company flew 23,998,000 passengers in 2009.
Image: Cubbie_n_Vegas .

Low-cost US airline Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it would buy its low-cost rival AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion. The merger announcement comes just days after United Airlines sealed a merger deal with Continental Airlines.

“The acquisition of AirTran represents a unique opportunity to grow Southwest Airlines’ presence in key markets we don’t yet serve and takes a significant step towards positioning us for future growth,” Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, said after the merger was announced.

The Southwest-AirTran deal, which awaits antitrust regulatory approval, will gain Southwest a larger US network. By merging with AirTran, Southwest will also be a strong competitor in Eastern United States cities such as New York City, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C., cities that Southwest had previously not touched much. Southwest also will be going international for the first time, inheriting AirTran’s Mexican and Caribbean routes. The newly merged company would keep Southwest’s name and livery.

Southwest will be offering AirTran stockholders US$7.69 per share. That’s 69% more than AirTran’s Friday, September 24 closing price. However, AirTran stock shot up 62% to $7.36 on Monday, while Southwest’s stock rose more modestly to US$14.01. Delta Air Lines stock declined by 2% on Monday, as Southwest will gain an AirTran hub at Atlanta, which is also Delta’s primary hub.

The new airline would carry over 100 million passengers, creating the world’s fourth largest airline. Last year, Southwest carried 101,338,000 passengers, while AirTran carried 23,998,000 fliers. Southwest will be 25% larger after the merger is completed.

Debate over airfare hikes

Though some people worry that airfares will go up, as people worried about during the United-Continental merger, others, including Southwest, aren’t too worried. “America needs this now. You could go from Rochester, N.Y., to somewhere on AirTran, and from Charlotte to somewhere on AirTran. But with this deal you can now go just about anywhere in the country, and to the Caribbean and Mexico, on Southwest.. . With the more than 100 destinations that Southwest will now have, all the legacy airlines will have to set their prices based on whatever Southwest does,” says Tom Parsons of BestFares.com. Parsons also said that “I think America is going to very happy that now they can fly coast-to-coast between 100 U.S. cities and make the legacy airlines be more competitive with the style of Southwest and their low fees.”

Consumer advocate Clark Howard also weigned in with a positive remark on the deal. “It’s so good for the flying public. This is an opportunity for a discounter to have the kind of heft and national reach of the full-fare airlines,” he said.

Southwest even has said that fares could go down, as the “Southwest effect”, which is supposed to stimulate competition, “has the potential to stimulate over two million new passengers and over US$200 million in consumer savings, annually” in Atlanta, according to the company. After the merger, Southwest also plans to drop AirTran’s checked baggage fees of US$20-25. Southwest currently does not charge for checked baggage.

Others aren’t as thrilled with the merger of the low-cost airlines. “This is truly a shocker, and it can only mean further consolidation. I don’t think anyone really saw this coming. More than any recent merger, it spells bad news for low fares, since both airlines were leaders in the low fare space and had frequent, almost weekly, sales. I can only imagine that now pressure is on for American to find a partner, and also US Airways, and that will lead to even less fare competition.” says George Hobica, of airfarewatchdog.com. Hobica also said that “The era of irrational, stupid, destructive fare sales is over. This is the new normal. JetBlue now has permission to raise prices between Baltimore and Boston. Other airlines now have permission to raise prices between Washington, D.C., and Florida.”

Though Hobica was generally pessimistic about the deal, he did state that the Southwest takeover would be a win for AirTran customers, “because Southwest has better service than AirTran and lower fees.”


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July 18, 2009

U.S. investigators probe in-flight hole in passenger jet

U.S. investigators probe in-flight hole in passenger jet

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The damaged section.
Image: NTSB.

Investigators with the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are examining a damaged section removed from a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 that blew out in-flight on Monday, July 13.

The passenger jet was flying between Nashville, Tennessee and Baltimore, Maryland when the hole, which measured seventeen inches by eight, opened up in the jet’s roof. A safe emergency landing was performed and the 126 passengers were evacuated from the aircraft without injury.

The damaged section arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday for examination by the NTSB. They have reported that there is no corrosion or obvious pre-existing mechanical damage to the segment.

As a result of the incident Southwest have inspected all 180 of their Boeing 737-300s, without result, within 24 hours of the incident. Continental Airlines have done likewise to their own examples of the type.

In 2008, Southwest was fined after it was found to have operated 47 jets that were overdue for inspections. In the light of Monday’s incident, former NTSB member and maintenance specialist John Goglia criticized the airline’s maintenance practices and governmental oversight. “Where’s the maintenance programs with this airline? Where’s the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)? Where’s the oversight? I mean, the list goes on and on. These people on this airplane really don’t know how lucky they were.”

The inner side of the same section.
Image: NTSB.

Southwest released a statement the day after the mishap in defense of their maintenance. “Southwest Airlines has an exemplary safety record that always is our focus. We are actively engaged with the NTSB in finding the cause of this incident and assuring that it does not happen again. We applaud our pilots and flight attendants for their expert handling of this situation and our customers for their cooperation.”

The inspections Southwest failed to perform in 2008 concerned examining the top of their aircraft for structural damage after a weight reducing modification was discovered which could reduce the strength of the design. NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said that “It looks like that (Airworthiness Directive (AD)) would apply [to Monday’s incident]. We are going to look at the maintenance records and the maintenance practices, and we are going to want to know if all of these (ADs) were followed.”

However, the FAA said that the inspections did not apply to the section that failed and, in any event, Boeing and Southwest ultimately came up with an improved design that was up to standard.



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June 2, 2006

Federal Air Marshal\’s cover blown

Federal Air Marshal’s cover blown – Wikinews, the free news source

Federal Air Marshal’s cover blown

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Friday, June 2, 2006

From SWA Media

A Federal Air Marshal decided to exit a Southwest Airlines flight today after dropping ammunition on the aircraft floor. The incident occurred at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

After earlier arriving from Philadelphia, the Marshal was on board a Southwest Airlines jet bound for Kansas City, when his gun’s clip fell to the aircraft floor, spilling bullets. According to Southwest Airlines spokeswomen Whitney Eichenger “He picked up the bullets immediately.” She also added, “Since he was no longer traveling incognito, he decided not to continue on the flight to Kansas City.”

Because of the incident, the flight was delayed 45 minutes.

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December 8, 2005

Southwest Airlines flight skids off runway at Chicago\’s Midway

Southwest Airlines flight skids off runway at Chicago’s Midway

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Thursday, December 8, 2005

A Southwest 737 such as this skidded from the runway. From SWA Media

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 skidded off the runway at the Chicago Midway Airport on Thursday evening. The Southwest Airlines flight 1248 was en route to Midway from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The aircraft attempted the landing at approximately 7:15 p.m. local time under heavy snow, and skidded off the runway, crashing through a steel barrier surrounding the airport and on to a residential street.

There were 98 passengers on the flight, two of them were reportedly injured and taken to a local hospital and the rest were bussed to the airport terminal.

Reports indicate that two vehicles were damaged. One of the vehicles was still lodged under the aircraft when police and fire officials arrived on the scene. Taken to the Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oaklawn were two adults and three children who were extracted from one of the vehicles the aircraft hit. One of the children, a 6-year-old boy from Indiana named Joshua Woods, has died from injuries suffered from the crash. The conditions of the other victims are still unknown.

The accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and a final report is expected in about a year.

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