Federal Aviation Administration has removed three top executives in the Office's oversight
, among accusations of salmon security enforcement elevated by bureaucrats and various resulting government inquiries, according to people familiar with the case.
Transport department inspector general has looked at some of the security issues for many months, said the people, including deviations from the airline to document maintenance for more than 100 of its jets. Other parts of the probe focus on failure to reliably calculate the weight of checked baggage and dangerous landing events where a plane threw a wing on the asphalt and another run of the strip in stormy weather.
Separate congressional investigations began to dive into a number of such Southwest operating and maintenance releases, although a person familiar with the details said that these inquiries had no impact on personnel movements. Redirects, which were also accused of being diverted to whistleblowing security inspectors, were revealed to FAA employees on Tuesday, said the people.
An FAA spokesman refused to comment on personnel cases, but in a statement suggested the management shake-up was tied to prolonged friction and disputes inside the office stemming from various whistleblower complaints. The spokesman said the agency is taking allegations of security monitoring and retaliation seriously while working "continuously to improve the FAA's overall performance to meet our critical security mission."
"To maintain these principles, we take necessary action as needed," he said.
A spokeswoman for the southwest said that it cooperates fully with the probe of the inspector. "We are absolutely certain that our maintenance procedures ensure the airworthiness of our aircraft," she said.
The redeployed employees include Carroll Hebert, office manager, and two of his lieutenants responsible for operations and maintenance. Mr. Hebert did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. The three leaders are temporarily replaced; Naming permanent substitutions may take months.
The trade union representing the FAA security inspectors nationwide has complained to both the FAA headquarters and congressional staff about alleged management recognition against inspectors raising security issues, according to people familiar with the details. The union refused to comment.
The staff changes, which came into effect during the weekend, and were announced to FAA employees in the Dallas office on Tuesday morning, follow months of escalating controversy ̵
Among the problems during inspection of inspector general and officials at the FAA headquarters is widespread miscalculation of the total weight of labeled bags loaded on each southwest plane, according to authorities and internal city documents. This survey was the subject of a previous Wall Street Journal report.
FAA's civil probe, document show, found systemic and significant errors with employee calculations and baggage uploads, resulting in potential discrepancies when pilots calculate starting weights.  Although the FAA found that the cargo was more than 1,000 pounds in excess of what was stated by the airline, Southwest has said that the system has minimal danger to passengers. In the past, the airline said it had fully cooperated with the FAA and reported voluntary cases to increase security, with a southwestern spokesman calling for negotiations with the agency in a "routine dialogue". Earlier this year, the airline said it was scheduled to phase in new baggage registration procedures by the end of 2019.
The inspector's general investigators have gathered information and interviewed inspectors about the baggage issue and other issues since last year, and are expected to issue a comprehensive FAA report. overview of the southwest by early 2020, according to some of the people who are familiar with the process.
Officially named FAA's Southwest Certification Management Office, the same section of the agency was in focus for significant controversy over ten years ago when congressional investigators discovered that local agency managers had allowed the airline to continue moving tens of thousands of passengers on nearly two dozen aircraft without completing mandatory structural inspections. The public furor led the agency and lawmakers to renew the FAA mission to focus solely on security monitoring, eliminating its previous responsibilities to promote aviation.
This time, similar debates on politics and leadership priorities have again ruled the office and created the person familiar with the details called a "toxic environment", pitting control against inspectors as opposed to the agency's change, less punitive approach to oversight.
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