Dallas, Texas based Southwest Airlines flew thousands of passengers on planes that were deemed unsafe by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Documents submitted to Congress by the FAA detailed that 117 of the company's planes flew while they were in violation of mandatory safety checks. In some instances, the planes flew up to 30 months after the government inspection deadlines had passed. The planes should have been grounded until the inspections could be completed. According to federal air safety inspectors, these planes were not "air worthy."
On Thursday, the FAA started the process to obtain a $10.2 million fine for not inspecting 46 planes for fuselage cracks. They are taking this action in order to punish Southwest Airlines for failing to follow rules that are designed to protect passengers and crew from air accidents.
Congressmen are calling this violation one of the worst ever and are planning on opening hearings as soon as possible to determine why the airline put its passengers and crew at risk.
In addition to Southwest apparently knowing the planes were flying unsafely, it appears that some FAA officials also knew the planes were flying when they were not airworthy and did nothing to ground the planes until inspections could be completed. Both FAA managers and the airline may also have broken the law as well as threatened the safety of Southwest's passengers.
The two individuals who prepared the documents and turned them over to Congress have requested whistle blower status. The "Whistle-Blower Protection Program" protects federal employees from being fired or retaliated against by their employer when they blow the whistle on unlawful actions.
The unsafe planes flew nearly 60,000 flights while they were uninspected.