Southwest unable to verify that dozens of jets meet safety standards: report

Southwest Airlines is reportedly operating dozens of commercial passenger aircraft that have not undergone comprehensive inspections amid concerns about maintenance performed under the aircraft's previous owners.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the company holds 88 aircraft in its fleet that were purchased used from foreign companies, 38 of which are still awaiting comprehensive inspections. Those aircraft remain in operation ahead of their planned inspections, according to the Journal.

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At issue are incomplete records of past maintenance required under Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) policy and that the company reportedly thought were complete at the time of the aircrafts' purchase. It was unclear when Southwest learned that the records were incomplete, but the company internally implemented a system to bring the maintenance and repair records up to date after learning of the issues.

The company's pace in getting the aircraft inspected has led to regulatory scrutiny from the FAA, however, which warned Southwest last month in a letter that it could levy penalties up to grounding of the aircraft if the inspections are not performed by the end of January.

"The FAA may exercise remedies up to and including grounding" if Southwest does not resolve the issues surrounding risks “posed by undocumented or nonconforming repairs,” the agency reportedly wrote.

Southwest officials told The Hill that all of the planes had received routine maintenance and required inspections since being added to the company's fleet, and added that the inspections "did not stem from any suspected safety concerns with the aircraft." 

"Recently, we responded to an FAA letter asking us to provide additional information on certain aircraft that we had previously acquired from other airlines as part of our fleet modernization efforts," a Southwest spokeswoman said.

"As a result, Southwest conducted a thorough audit of the aircrafts’ maintenance records to ensure that every documented repair was captured and properly classified in our electronic record-keeping system. Additionally, all of the aircraft have undergone visual inspections, and Southwest will complete physical inspections, from nose to tail, on each of the pre-owned aircraft no later than January 31, 2020, satisfying all FAA requests," the spokeswoman added.

Updated at 4:22 p.m. to include a complete statement from Southwest Airlines.