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Southwest Airlines will pay a $7.5 million dollar penalty for aircraft maintenance lapses disclosed by the company in 2007, and the popular air carrier agreed to take a number of steps to enhance its safety practices, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Monday.
The settlement stems from an initial $10.2 million penalty proposed against the Dallas-based air carrier, for operating 46 airplanes -- amounting to 59,791 Southwest flights between June 2006 and March 2007 -- without performing required safety checks for potential fatigue cracking in the aircraft's fuselage, the FAA anounced. The $7.5 million fine could double to $15 million if Southwest Airlines fails to meet certain safety-related goals set out under the settlement agreement, according to the FAA News Release.
Reuters reports that "concerns over the safety of Southwest planes were brought to light by FAA whistle blowers, who took the information to Congress," but "Southwest contends it has always aggressively inspected its aircraft and has always operated safely."