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FAA, DOT face lawsuits over Alaska Airlines crash

jackscrew and gimbal nut
The jackscrew, left and gimbal nut from Alaska Airlines Flight 261  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Families of victims of last year's Alaska Airlines crash are suing two government transportation agencies. Thirteen families are filing claims against the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation over the crash last year, alleging that the federal agencies failed in their oversight roles.

The families say the FAA and DOT failed to ensure compliance with applicable maintenance regulations, failed to implement the Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS) program and negligently certified the jackscrew assembly without the required redundancy.

"There is no other way to force the FAA to adequately do its job of overseeing the carriers of this country and enforcing aviation safety," said attorney Mary Schiavo.


Flight 261 crashed January 31, 2000, into the Pacific Ocean, killing all 88 people aboard.

In December, the FAA proposed to fine Alaska Airlines almost $1 million for maintenance violations and 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 "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 they 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 faced civil penalties, and bulk of the fine proposed is a result of discrepancies discovered during that audit.

Also in December, an accident investigation panel looking into the crash learned that there were reported problems with the jackscrew assembly -- which controls the horizontal stabilizer on the tail of the jet -- months before the accident.

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Alaska Airlines probe focuses on 1997 inspection of stabilizer jackscrew
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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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