More than 100 grounded Southwest Airlines planes were back in service Wednesday, after aviation officials approved a plan that would allow the company to keep flying the planes despite lapsed maintenance inspections of backup hydraulic systems.
Southwest Airlines said it grounded 128 of its Boeing 737 aircraft after learning they had been flown without required checks on the backup hydraulic systems, which are meant to control plane rudders in the event the main system fails.
Eighty flights were canceled Tuesday as a result.
Late Tuesday night, Southwest said, the Federal Aviation Administration approved a plan that will allow the airline to operate the aircraft “for a maximum of five days as the checks are completed,” the company said in a statement.
“Once identified, Southwest immediately and voluntarily removed the affected aircraft from service, initiated maintenance checks, disclosed the matter to the FAA, and developed an action plan to complete all overdue checks,” airline officials said. The temporary grounding covered about one-fifth of the airline’s 665-plane fleet.
“The safety of our customers and employees remains our highest priority and we are working quickly to resolve the situation,” the airline said.
In a statement, the FAA said it informed the airline late Tuesday afternoon of the missed inspections.
Southwest says it anticipated a “very minimal impact” on its flights going forward, but provided no updates on how many, if any, flights had been canceled or delayed Wednesday.