June 25, 2008

FAA Manager Blamed in Southwest’s Lapses in Inspections Retires

By Dave Michaels, The Dallas Morning News

Jun. 25--WASHINGTON -- A Federal Aviation Administration manager in North Texas who was blamed for allowing Southwest Airlines to skirt safety regulations has retired from the agency, FAA officials said Tuesday.

Douglas T. Gawadzinski's retirement was effective this week, said Lynn Tierney, an FAA spokeswoman.

The FAA transferred Mr. Gawadzinski, 58, from a position overseeing Southwest's maintenance program last year, but some lawmakers were upset that he later performed several inspections while investigators looked into his relationship with the airline.

Mr. Gawadzinski didn't return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

The FAA admitted in April to an extensive breakdown in its oversight of Southwest, which officials mostly blamed on Mr. Gawadzinski.

The FAA fined Southwest $10.2 million for flying planes that should have been grounded for required fuselage inspections.

The airline continued flying the planes with Mr. Gawadzinski's consent, according to FAA records.

The FAA later placed two high officials, including the top regulator for flight safety in Texas, on administrative leave.

Both of those officials remain on leave, Ms. Tierney said.

The controversy was sparked by complaints from an FAA inspector who worked for Mr. Gawadzinski. The inspector, who became a federal whistle-blower for Congress, told investigators that Mr. Gawadzinski didn't allow his inspectors to start enforcement investigations into maintenance lapses at Southwest.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general later confirmed many of the inspector's allegations.

Lawmakers suggested that Mr. Gawadzinski was too close to Southwest officials, including one person who used to work for Mr. Gawadzinski at the FAA.


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