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Alaska Airlines must demonstrate improved maintenance record keeping to FAA

Alaska Airlines could face a possible shutdown of its maintenance operations  

Agency asks U.S. to check evidence in last fall's crash

June 8, 2000
Web posted at: 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT)

In this story:

Deadly crash resulted in closer scrutiny

Some want airline out of business

Company says passenger volume is up


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Friday is the day that Alaska Airlines must prove to federal aviation officials that the company has improved its maintenance record keeping.

Failure to adequately meet this week's deadline could lead the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down the airline's maintenance operations.

And if Alaska Airlines can't maintain its aircraft, it can't keep the planes flying, because it would not be allowed to contract the work out.

VideoCNN's Don Knapp looks at the recent troubles of Alaska Airlines.
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Should the FAA finding go against the airline, a shutdown could come within 30 days.

Deadly crash resulted in closer scrutiny

The government began taking a closer look at the airline after the January 31 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 off the coast of Southern California. All 88 people aboard the MD-80 were killed in the crash, which remains under investigation.

The crash probe focused on a mechanism in the tail that controls the horizontal stabilizer. The pilots complained of trouble controlling the stabilizer prior to the crash.

Damage to the jackscrew mechanism seen in the wreckage and in other Alaska Airlines planes sparked a nationwide inspection at all airlines in February.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it found no grease on the portion of the accident plane's jackscrew where another part, the gimbal nut, would normally operate.

The airline's maintenance records were already under review by the FAA because of a former mechanic's allegations in 1998 of shoddy work.

After the crash, FAA inspections found 150 instances where heavy maintenance work on aircraft could not be documented. Reinspections showed that the work had been performed.

Some want airline out of business

Janis Ost Ford would like the airline to go out of business. She lost her mother, her mother's longtime companion, her brother, his wife and their 4-month-old baby in the January crash.

When asked if she blames Alaska Airlines, she said, "Of course I do."

But travelers don't necessarily share her feelings.

Travel agent Brad Hudson says his clients ask about Alaska, but very few change flights.

"Some people are concerned about safety," he said, but "other people aren't so much concerned about safety as they are as to whether the airline will continue to fly."

Apparent mechanical problems with the MD-80's horizontal stabilizer triggered closer scrutiny of the airline's maintenance operations  

At least one passenger voiced concern at San Francisco International Airport.

"I'm scared enough of flying as it is, without flying on an airline with a bad maintenance record," said one woman.

Company says passenger volume is up

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines said its latest tallies show passenger volume is up.

"If I die, I die -- it happens," said one passenger. "You can die on any flight."

The company said it continues to make improvements and that it is confident it will be able to show the FAA that Alaska Airlines flights are safe.

Correspondent Don Knapp and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Alaska Airlines
National Transportation Safety Board
Federal Aviation Administration

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