For Immediate Release

Release No. ASW 05-00
March 7, 2000
Contact: John Clabes, Roland Herwig
Phone: (405) 954-7500

FORT WORTH — The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed to impose a $90,000 civil penalty on Dallas-based Southwest Airlines for operating one of its aircraft on 46 flights with an incorrect inner wheel bearing assembly installed.

Failure of the assembly caused the left main inner landing gear tire and wheel assembly to fall from the Boeing 737-300 during a Sept. 2, 1999, takeoff. The aircraft, which has two wheels on each main landing gear, landed safely after the incident.

In a letter to the company, the FAA said the aircraft's left inner main gear tire and wheel assembly was changed at Chicago Midway Airport, Aug. 28, 1999. Company inspectors signed the aircraft's airworthiness release Aug. 29 and the plane returned into service.

FAA's investigation revealed that the airline's vendor repair station, Allied Signal, installed the incorrect inner wheel bearing. The aircraft flew 46 flights before the bearing and wheel assembly failed. The FAA alleged that Southwest operated the aircraft while it was in an unairworthy condition.

The company has 15 days from receipt of the FAA notice to submit a reply to the agency. This announcement is made in accordance with the FAA's practice of releasing information to the public on newly issued enforcement actions involving penalties of $50,000 or more.