MIAMI — Southwest Airlines this morning announced that it was voluntarily grounding its 128-strong Boeing 737-700 fleet after discovering that a required maintenance check on the jet’s standby hydraulic system had not been performed. As Southwest works with the FAA to complete the checks in the next five days, Airways looks back at how other airlines handled the grounding of their fleets.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet was grounded in January 2013 after a Japan Airlines jet suffered a fire from a battery problem at Boston-Logan International Airport. While the exact cause of the battery problem is still not known, Boeing developed a modification to the battery that will contain a fire in case one was to break out inflight. The fleet went back into service on July 1, 2013.
American Airlines was forced to ground its entire fleet of aircraft on April 16, 2013, blaming a computer system failure. At the time, FlightAware estimated nearly 1,000 flights were delayed or canceled because of the failure. It was able to fix the system the same day, but still had to deal with the ripple effects of the grounding.
Allegiant Air grounded almost half of its McDonnell Douglas MD-80 fleet — 30 aircraft — on September 20, 2013, in order to inspect the jet’s emergency evacuation slides. The grounding came as a result of a request for information by the FAA after the carrier experienced an emergency evacuation of one of its flights after it landed at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport. The fleet was back in the air by the end of the month.
In October 2012, American Airlines initially grounded eight Boeing 757 after one jet experienced a row seat bolts loosening and another jet had a row of seats become unbolted. It eventually grounded its entire fleet of 47 757s overnight while it worked with its mechanics to inspect the aircraft, which at the time were being installed with Main Cabin Extra seats.
United Airlines in February 2011 voluntarily grounded its fleet of 96 Boeing 757 over incomplete maintenance checks. The grounding caused nearly 20 flights to be cancelled.
On November 4, 2010, Qantas grounded its Airbus A380 fleet after one of the quad jet’s Rolls-Royce engines exploded after taking off from Singapore’s Changi Airport. Singapore Airlines, which also used Rolls-Royce-powered A380s, grounded its fleet for a day to do safety inspections. Qantas starting returning the jumbo jet back in service in late November, and the fleet was full operational again by January 2011.