Southwest Grounds Dozens of Aircraft After Weight Issues Discovered

Aug 14, 2018

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Last week, Southwest Airlines grounded dozens aircraft due to issues with their weight records.

The Chicago Business Journal obtained an internal memo that was distributed to Southwest employees regarding the disruption:

“Today (Wednesday) we discovered the weights being sent to our Dispatch Operation did not match our other weight records for a number of aircraft in the fleet. As a result, and of an abundance of caution, we have stopped flying those aircraft to recalculate the weights of the aircraft in question and reset the program.”

An aircraft’s weight is no laughing matter — knowing a plane’s weight is crucial for air and ground crew to determine the fuel loads and other data important to a flight’s safety.

Southwest operates a fleet exclusively of Boeing 737s, of which it grounded 66 due to the weight issues.

A Southwest spokesperson said about 30 flights were canceled due to the issue, and affected customers were re-accommodated. In the memo, Southwest employees were instructed to give this reason to customers regarding the cancellations:

“This aircraft is temporarily out of service while we work on its paperwork. The system that calculates and reports the aircraft’s weight is not working properly.”

Southwest said the issue was corrected overnight and that aircraft were cleared to operate by the next morning.

The memo comes just a few months after a passenger was killed on Southwest flight 1380 when an engine failure caused an explosion. In June, the US Department of Transportation launched an investigation into the Federal Aviation Association’s alleged oversight of Southwest Airlines safety and maintenance policies.

As the Chicago Business Journal points out, the memo used the same language from Southwest’s announcement that it would inspect every single 737 engine fan blade after flight 1380 “out of an abundance of caution.”

TPG reached out to Southwest for more information but didn’t receive a response by time of publication.

Featured image courtesy of Stephen M. Keller / Southwest.

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