Following the discovery that 82 Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s have been flying with unapproved parts, the Federal Aviation Administration has given the airline until Christmas to replace the parts on up to 50 of the aircraft.
According to the FAA, Southwest has already replaced the parts on the other 32 aircraft; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the airline says it actually has replaced the unapproved parts on 43 of the affected 737s to date.
The parts are associated with hinge fittings for the exhaust gate assemblies near the trailing edges of each wing that deflect heat from each engine’s exhaust away from the aircraft’s flaps.
The FAA says its technical review has determined that the unapproved part would not prevent safe operation of the airplanes and that Boeing has made a similar determination.
As a result, the FAA has determined that the airline may continue to operate aircraft with the unapproved part until the parts can be replaced, on the condition that each plane must be physically inspected for wear and tear every seven days. The FAA is requiring Southwest to replace all affected parts with approved parts by December 24.
The FAA has also directed Southwest Airlines to locate and dispose of any other unapproved parts made by the same vendor and to report on the results of its aircraft inspections to the FAA on a daily basis.
On August 21 the FAA determined that the parts had been installed on 82 Southwest Airlines 737s and the agency says it has opened an investigation into the issue.