Regulators seeking millions in penalties against Southwest

DALLAS (AP) _ Federal regulators will seek a penalty of at least three million dollars against Southwest Airlines for not inspecting older planes for cracks.

An informed source tells The Associated Press that the Federal Aviation Administration could officially notify Southwest of actions against it as early as today. The Dallas-based airline said today that it had complied with regulators' requests and would contest any fine. The FAA is looking into Southwest's failure to do required inspections on some of its older Boeing 737s.

The planes are covered by an FAA safety directive for inspecting older aircraft for structural soundness. The aim of the program is to find and repair small cracks before they become a safety hazard. Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin says the airline, itself, brought the issue to the FAA's attention.

She says Southwest believed it had handled the matter to the agency's satisfaction. Harbin said the airline believed the case was closed last year. The source says Southwest self-reported that it had accidentally missed some inspections. The source says the key was that Southwest then continued flying the planes before completing the inspections.

The FAA action was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in today's editions.