Southwest Airlines Temporarily Grounds 130 Boeing 737s

Southwest Airlines has temporarily grounded 130 of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline made the announcement last night after it was challenged on weight discrepancies. Southwest has assured minimal inconvenience, though it is not clear when the aircraft will fly again.

Southwest Airlines Temporarily Grounds 130 Boeing 737s
130 737s are temporarily grounded. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

130 Boeing 737s grounded

Yesterday, Southwest Airlines announced that it would ground 130 of its Boeing 737 aircraft temporarily. In light of recent events, suspending operations on a large portion of its fleet is not an ideal situation. However, for Southwest, it was essential.

On Wednesday, September 16th, the carrier halted services on the 737-800 aircraft. The reason is to do with incorrect weight data records on some of its flights. According to an article reported by Reuters, the airline has failed to account for 75lbs.

As a result of the miscalculation, 22% of the entire Southwest fleet has been grounded, which causes problems for imminent departures. That said, Southwest is confident that it took the right approach. In a statement witnessed by Reuters, the airline said,

“…we anticipate the impact to our operation to be minimal.”

737-800 Hawaii
Southwest Airlines did not say how long it would ground its Boeing 737s. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The carrier went on to say that it would be using this time to rectify the weight data issues on its aircraft. We contacted Southwest to find out how long its aircraft will likely be grounded, but it was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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Why does weight data matter?

Though a small matter of 75lbs might not seem like a lot, recording correct weight data is essential. It ensures the safety of passengers onboard to the point where improper calculations can be fatal. Southwest’s Boeing 737-800s have a maximum take-off weight of 174,100lbs. This should not be exceeded.

Thankfully, on this occasion, Southwest did not suffer any significant incidents due to its weight data. However, accidents from overloading flights have happened before.

When a flight is loaded beyond the safe maximum, the center of gravity is shifted. Maintaining this delicate balance is vital for a safe trip. It can be the reason why sometimes people must move seats or cargo needs to be shifted.

Southwest 737-800 take-off
An overloaded plane can have take-off and landing difficulties. Photo: Getty Images

Without a proper balance that can be sustained throughout the flight, issues such as the following can occur:

  • longer take-off needed, resulting in potential collision risk;
  • higher speed upon landing; and
  • less control and maneuverability at various stages of the journey.

Previous incidents

It goes without saying that carriers, including Southwest Airlines, need to be cautious with their reporting. Though this should have been an isolated incident, unfortunately, history seems to be repeating itself.

Boeing 737-800 take-off
This is not the first time the airline has been caught out. Photo: Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently seeking to charge Southwest nearly $4m for improper weight calculations in the past. Between May and mid-August 2018, the airline is accused of having operated 21,505 flights on 44 aircraft without accurate weight data.

It is unclear whether the latest infringement will incur similar financial penalties. From its statement, Southwest seems relatively confident that it can clear up the issue by inputting the correct data. With any luck, it will learn and move on from this mistake for the future.

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