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Southwest Airlines gets until Dec. 24 to replace wing parts

About 50 jets have unapproved parts. They do not prevent safe operation of the jets, plane manufacturer Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration say.

September 02, 2009|Associated Press

Federal officials are giving Southwest Airlines Co. until Dec. 24 to replace unapproved parts on about 50 airplanes.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that the parts did not prevent safe operation of the planes. The jets' manufacturer, Boeing Co., had reached the same conclusion.

The FAA will let Southwest fly the planes as long as they are inspected every seven days and the unapproved wing part is replaced by Christmas Eve.

The planes make up about 10% of Southwest's fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft.

The FAA also directed Southwest to find and dispose of any other unapproved parts made by the same company and report results of its aircraft inspections every day.

Southwest had faced a Tuesday deadline and the threat of grounding some planes for the second time in less than two weeks. It grounded 46 planes Aug. 22 -- the day after an FAA inspector discovered the use of the unapproved parts -- causing flight delays and some cancellations.

A maintenance company hired by Southwest used parts that hadn't been approved by the FAA on more than 80 of Southwest's Boeing jets since 2006. Southwest has replaced the parts on about 30 planes.

The parts are designed to deflect hot engine exhaust away from the wings.

Southwest suspended the maintenance company, D-Velco Manufacturing of Arizona, a unit of aviation parts maker Northstar Aerospace Inc. D-Velco had hired a subcontractor to make the parts, but that subcontractor isn't approved for the work by the FAA.

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