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Wing incident prompts change at Alaska Airlines


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Aircraft landed without incident

Airline describes violation as 'serious'

Maintenance blamed for crash last year


SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- Alaska Airlines said Thursday it had put one of its ground crew contracts up for bid because crew members failed to report wing damage to an Alaska Airlines' Boeing MD-80.


The incident occurred January 9 as Flight 259 was leaving San Francisco, California, with 46 passengers aboard, a statement from the airline said. It said the right wing collided with a baggage cart, causing "indentations in the underside of the wing, (and) a portion of the edge of the wing was damaged."

The statement said ground crew employees of Ogden Aviation Services, which provides Alaska Airlines with all ground services in San Francisco, failed to report the damage to the flight crew.

Aircraft landed without incident

The plane, bound for Portland, Oregon, did not have any problems in the air and landed without incident.

Alaska Airlines maintenance employees discovered the damage to the wing the next day, and the airline notified the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airline's statement said there was no damage to the aileron or wing spar and no other structural damage. It said after a review, the NTSB determined that it was a "non-reportable" incident, meaning it did not merit further investigation by the agency.

Airline describes violation as 'serious'

"Although the passengers and crew were never endangered, we consider an incident such as this to be serious and respond to it accordingly," said Dave Prewitt, Alaska Airlines vice president of safety.

Jack Evans, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines, said the company insisted the Ogden employees involved in the incident be fired. The airline also told Ogden that its ground services contract will be put out for bid, and the company has sent its own teams to supervise the work of Ogden crews until the current contract has expired.

The plane has been repaired and returned to service.

Maintenance blamed for crash last year

On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crashed off the coast of Southern California, killing all 88 people aboard.

In December 2000, the FAA proposed to fine the airline almost $1 million for maintenance violations and for flying planes in violation of federal aviation regulations. The fine came as a result of a maintenance audit on the airline following the crash.

Last June, the FAA reported the audit had found that there were "serious breakdowns in record keeping, documentation and quality assurance" and that "maintenance personnel are not following FAA approved procedures."

The FAA threatened to shut down the airline's maintenance operations unless it came up with a plan to fix the problem.

Ultimately, the airline was able to satisfy the FAA, and it continued operations.

But the airline still faces civil penalties, and the bulk of the fine proposed is a result of discrepancies discovered during that audit.

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Largest U.S. airlines face audits of maintenance procedures
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May 24, 2000
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April 27, 2000
Alaska Airlines chief says he knows of no criminal probe
March 20, 2000
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March 11, 2000
More damage discovered on part from Alaska Airlines Flight 261
February 18, 2000
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February 14, 2000
Alaska Airlines probe focuses on 1997 inspection of stabilizer jackscrew
February 13, 2000
FAA to order urgent inspections of all MD-80 series aircraft
February 10, 2000
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February 8, 2000
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January 31, 2000

Alaska Airlines
The Boeing Company
National Transportation Safety Board
Federal Aviation Administration

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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