The Federal Aviation Administration may know considerably less about the state of airline safety than it claims, a parade of witnesses and lawmakers said at a Congressional hearing on Thursday.
Three F.A.A. inspectors testified that their agency had allowed Southwest Airlines to fly uninspected planes, and that the airline had continued to fly the planes even after it later found cracks in some of them.
The inspectors said that when they complained, their bosses threatened their jobs and discouraged them from pursuing safety problems.
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