Author: Stephanie

The government bought Southwest Flight 1549 for $10 million

The government bought Southwest Flight 1549 for $10 million

Airlines Need New Planes, but the Supply Chain Has Other Ideas

The story behind Southwest Flight 1549 and its cargo mix problem.

Photo: Southwest

When the world’s largest airline was forced to suspend Southwest Flight 1549 after an equipment failure, it was, in effect, the United States government asking its airline to fly empty.

A few days later, the government came back with a new offer: It would buy the aircraft outright. But there was a cost — $10 million.

This wasn’t the first time government or private buyers have had to pay a steep price for a plane, but the timing of the $10 million purchase for Southwest Flight 1549, as well as the fact that it left the government’s hands, was peculiar.

It was a case of government doing to the private sector what it’s always done with its own people.

“We’ve been looking for a plane, now we have one,” says Robert Mann, head of Southwest Air Cargo, in an interview in the company’s new corporate headquarters, just outside Dallas. “We’re at that point where we’re going to start getting in the jet.”

For government, this was a case of doing what government always does: buying big planes from the private sector. Government owns most airplanes on the global flight, but a few, including the Airbus A-320 and Bombardier CRJ-700 turboprops and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are owned by private interests.

When the government wants to buy airplane parts or other critical goods, it’s likely going to have to pay high prices to get them — from as little as $0.50 per pound for the engine to as much as $25-30 for the entire plane. This is especially true when it comes to a plane like Southwest Flight 1549, which had about 1,300 gallons of fuel in its tanks, and which had to be grounded after the engine failed during a routine test.

But the government doesn’t buy planes on the whim. There are the few planes that are in government service, like the 787, that require a government-owned part as a safety feature. Then there are other airplanes, like Southwest Flight 1549, that are owned by the airlines themselves. The government’s role

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