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Southwest resumes flights with planes awaiting inspections

Southwest Airlines Co., the world’s biggest operator of Boeing Co. 737 jets, said it can continue flying 128 aircraft while catching up on missed inspections on the planes’ rudders.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration gave Southwest five days to conduct the checks, and said the carrier can continue to fly the planes, after approving a plan to remedy the deficit, the agency said in a statement Wednesday. Southwest grounded the 737-700s, about one-fifth of its fleet, for about six hours Tuesday after discovering the maintenance lapse and notifying the FAA.

“This is a periodic inspection of a backup system,” the e-mailed statement said. “The FAA evaluated the risk and agreed that the airline could continue to operate the planes during this short interim.”

The missed inspections involve standby hydraulic systems, which serve as the final backup to two primary levels of equipment, and the lowest of three intervals for the checks, the airline said. Southwest canceled 80 flights across its network Tuesday because of the missed inspections, said Brandy King, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based carrier.

“The airline is anticipating very minimal impact to their operation as they complete the remaining checks,” King said. “We only expect around 15 to 19 cancels today as we reposition aircraft.”