A new report slams the FAA for failing to properly supervise Southwest Airlines, leading to a range of safety risks

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it agrees with all 11 recommendations made by the US Transportation Department's Inspector General that faulted its oversight of Southwest Airlines, according to a final report released Tuesday afternoon.

"Given the significant unresolved safety concerns that FAA has identified at Southwest Airlines, it is clear that the agency is not yet effectively navigating the balance between industry collaboration and managing safety risks at the carrier," the report said.

The report said Southwest Airlines operated more than 150,000 flights carrying 17.2 million passengers on 88 used Boeing 737 jets without confirmation that required maintenance had been completed.

The report also said the FAA has not "effectively overseen Southwest Airlines' systems for managing risks."

"Our review identified a number of concerns regarding FAA's safety oversight of Southwest Airlines," the report said, including that Southwest is still flying planes without the proper maintenance documentation.

According to the report, "FAA inspectors do not evaluate air carrier risk assessments or safety culture as
part of their oversight of Southwest Airlines' safety management systems," because "FAA has not provided inspectors with guidance on how to review risk assessments or how to evaluate and oversee a carrier's safety culture."

"As a result, FAA cannot provide assurance that the carrier operates at the highest degree of safety in the public's interest, as required by law," the report added.

The FAA said in a response included with the report it concurred with all 11 recommendations by the inspector general and acknowledged that its office overseeing Southwest "did not perform in accordance with existing guidance."

The FAA has also come under scrutiny from lawmakers for its oversight of the newer Boeing 737 Max jet, which was grounded last March after two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

Details from the report first emerged in late-January. The report was first seen by the Wall Street Journal. Southwest told Business Insider at the time that it was disappointed in and disagreed with the report.

"The success of our business depends on the Safety of our operation and any implication that we would tolerate a relaxing of standards is unfounded," the airline said.

Southwest told Reuters Tuesday that eight of the 88 used jets remain out of service "and are currently in heavy checks." Southwest added it adamantly disagrees "with unsubstantiated references to Southwest's safety culture."

On January 10, the FAA said it was seeking to impose a $3.92 million fine on Southwest for alleged weight infractions on 21,505 flights on 44 aircraft between May 1 and August 9, 2018.

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