Southwest Airlines – Ethics of Compliance
The purpose of this paper is to present, discuss, and examine the topic of ethical and social responsibility. It will discuss Southwest Airlines' failure to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's rules on inspecting aircraft and what violations occurred. On March 6, 2008, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors submitted documents to the United States Congress, alleging that Southwest allowed 117 of its aircraft to fly carrying passengers despite the fact that the planes were "not airworthy" according to air safety investigators. In some cases, the planes were allowed to fly for up to 30 months after the inspection deadlines had passed, rendering them unfit to fly. Records indicate that thousands of passengers were flown on aircraft deemed unsafe by federal standards. Clearly, this is an issue tied to social responsibility and ethics at the highest level, ignoring the safety inspections put people's lives in jeopardy. This situation actually began in 1988, when an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 suffered an accident that killed a flight attendant. The top of the plane's fuselage tore off, opening up a large section of the plane's roof, killing the flight attendant. The accident occurred because of cracks in the plane's fuselage. Since then, the FAA has required regular inspections of 737 fuselages to ensure an accident like this does not occur again. In 2007, two FAA inspectors began to question documentation and inspections at Southwest Airlines. They had reason to be concerned, because they felt their concerns were being ignored, and their supervisor was not investigating their complaints. FAA inspectors Bobby Boutris and Douglas Peters testified before Congress about their experiences, and asked for whistleblower status, meaning they could not be fired from their jobs because of their testimony. Boutris was the first to question records kept by Southwest about airplane inspections. In 2003, he was in charge of inspecting engines for the 737, and he could validate the Southwest's reports. He told an NPR Radio reporter, "'I had found a lot of inconsistencies with the records,' Boutris says. 'They were different from aircraft to aircraft; it was very hard to determine compliance'" (Goodwyn, 2008). He notes that he complained to his supervisor, Douglas Gawadzinski, but he ignored Boutris' complaints. In 2006, Boutris took over safety responsibility for the entire 737-700 series aircraft, and when he reviewed Southwest, he found the same recordkeeping problems he had uncovered in 2003. He notified his supervisor and wanted to send a letter of investigation, again his supervisor Gawadzinski refused to acknowledge his concerns. Boutris believes it is because Gawadzinski had a close friendship with Paul Comeau, a former FAA employee who went to work for Southwest as their manager for regulatory compliance. Anything to do with Southwest and the FAA went through these two men, and Boutris believes they routinely covered up inspection irregularities or lack of inspections. Boutris continued to complain, and Southwest asked for him to be removed from their inspections. Reporter Goodwyn continues, "At first, Gawadzinski refused to remove Boutris. But it wasn't long before the supervisory maintenance inspector told Boutris he was out and that his career was in jeopardy because there had been undisclosed complaints from anonymous Southwest officials" (Goodwyn, 2008). At this point, Douglas Peters, another FAA inspector, were brought in to review Boutris' investigation into Southwest's compliance. Goodwyn notes, "The more he looked into the matter, the more he agreed with Boutris that the flying public was in danger. Peters says the situation defied logic. 'That something so critical ... would be not addressed ... I can't explain it. It's a mystery'" (Goodwyn, 2008). People from Southwest began to contact Gawadzinski directly,...
References: Goodwyn, W. (2008). FAA whistleblowers: Southwest probes stymied. Retrieved February 5, 2011, from the NPR Web site: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89328997.
Kelly, G. (2008). Southwest Airlines provides testimony to U.S. House of Representatives Committee On Transportation and Infrastructure. Retrieved February 5, 2011, from the Southwest Airlines Web site: http://www.southwest.com/swamedia/trust_in_southwest.html.
Levin, A. (2008). Inspectors: FAA officials gave Southwest a pass on safety checks. Retrieved February 5, 2011, from the CNN Web site http://articles.cnn.com/2008-03-07/us/southwest.planes_1_faa-cracks-inspections?_s=PM:US
Wilber, D.Q. (2008). Airlines, FAA under fire on the hill: Lawmaker links safety lapses to 'cozy relationship, ' will hold hearing. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from the Washington Post Web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/01/AR2008040102696.html
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