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Alaska Airlines chief says he knows of no criminal probe
SEATTLE (CNN) -- The chairman of Alaska Airlines said Monday he is investigating complaints by the airline's Seattle maintenance workers but that he has not been told of any criminal investigation.
John Kelly, chairman and CEO of Alaska Airlines, was asked at a morning news conference about a Seattle Times story over the weekend citing unidentified sources and saying that the FBI had initiated a criminal investigation in connection with the January 31 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. "We are not aware of any (investigation)," Kelly said.
Kelly said the FBI had been involved in the investigation of the Flight 261 crash, but that "they have not made us aware of any criminal investigation."
Kelly said the airline, together with the Federal Aviation Administration, was investigating allegations by 64 maintenance workers that they had been "pressured, threatened and intimidated to release aircraft in an unairworthy condition."
When asked specifically what they were directed to do, the workers were "not able to specify anything that was illegal," Kelly said.
After interviews with 51 of the workers, Kelly said, "no aircraft was released in an unairworthy or unsafe condition."
Most of the employee complaints centered on the management style of the manager of the airline's Seattle maintenance base, he said.
"They don't agree with him, and they don't like his style," Kelly said. He said after the interviews are completed, the airline will deal with the management issues internally.
Flight 261 crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, killing all 88 people on board.
The cause of the crash has yet to be determined. Pilots reported a problem with the stabilizer before the plane slammed into the water.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said the threads of the gimbal nut, which attached the horizontal stabilizer to the jackscrew, and threads on the lower stop nut were stripped. Impact marks were visible on the outside of both nuts, board investigators have said.
The safety board is trying to determine if the impact indicated by the marks happened before or after the plane crashed.
Because of the increased scrutiny that the airline has been under since the crash, said Kelly, he is hiring outside experts to go over all phases of the airline's operations.
In addition, he said, the FAA plans a "white glove" audit of Alaska Airlines.
Kelly said he would also hire a vice president of safety who would answer directly to him. Finally, he said a hotline was being established to his office so that employees would report any concern "and I can run that to ground."
Kelly said Alaska Airlines had doubled its spending on maintenance in recent years, and he added, "If there is anything we find that needs to be fixed, believe me, we will fix it."
Suit filed in fallout from Alaska Airlines crash
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