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NorthwestDigest

Posted: Friday, June 10, 2005

Alaska Airlines seeing more flight delays and cancellations

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Airlines passengers are seeing more delayed flights and cancellations than in the past.

It's been that way for months, according to company spokeswoman Caroline Boren.

"We're trying to find out exactly what the problems are," she said.

One reason is because planes are being targeted for maintenance by flight crews more often, and maintenance is taking longer, she said.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines' chief executive said Wednesday that passengers have been seeing more flight delays and cancellations than in the past.

"It's a fact; we're not proud of it," William Ayer told investors at a global transportation conference.

"We're apologizing to customers these days quite a lot," Ayer said.

The situation was exacerbated Sunday when the airline added 59 flights to reach its summer schedule of 517 flights per day.

"The transition Sunday made it clear we haven't fixed those problems," Boren said.

Company spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said the schedule change seemed to cause extra delays, not labor issues with baggage handling.

The airline and pilots recently agreed to a 20 percent pay cut, and the airline replaced 472 baggage workers in its Seattle hub with contractors from the same global company that handles its airports to the south.

Air Force releases more details on plan to close Eielson

FAIRBANKS - Air Force officials have released more details on a plan to turn Eielson Air Force Base into a major training venue, saying they want to keep most of the base fully operational and run war games from early spring through late fall.

A letter and background paper - sent to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission this week by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper and acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Dominguez - expand on comments they made during a May 17 commission meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon has proposed shifting Eielson jet fighter aircraft and more than 2,800 Air Force personnel to other bases.

The background paper notes Eielson's access to "a vast airspace and range complex." That area is three times as large as the next largest range, located in Nevada, and access to it is "critical" for future exercises, it stated.

Each summer, Eielson supports the largest air combat exercises in the Pacific, dubbed Cope Thunder.

The background paper said about two-thirds of Eielson's "physical infrastructure" would remain in "fully operational condition." That includes the "mission facilities, runway, taxiways, ramps, hangars, munitions storage, maintenance, power and heat plants, water and wastewater systems, lodging, dining facility, etc."

BRAC members will be in Fairbanks June 15 to take testimony on the Eielson plans.

Police say burned vehicle may belong to missing man

ANCHORAGE - A burned vehicle found alongside the Glenn Highway could be the Ford Explorer driven by a 35-year-old Anchorage man who has been missing since last week, police said.

The vehicle was so badly burned that police haven't been able to confirm it was the one Tom Cody borrowed from a friend. Even the vehicle identification number was partially destroyed, said Anchorage Police Department spokesman Ron McGee.

The pearl white Explorer, license plate number ELV647, is considered the key to finding what happened to Cody, police have said.

Detectives don't believe that Cody, an avid hiker and real estate developer, is lost or hurt in the woods because they and volunteer teams have searched trails and seen no sign of him, said Capt. Ross Plummer, head of Anchorage Police Department's detective division.

"We're not going on that theory," he said.

Still, nothing has been ruled out at this point, Plummer said.

Cody was last seen the afternoon of June 1 when he had a late lunch at his neighbor's home in South Anchorage. The neighbors have driven from Knik to Seward looking for him, friends have hiked trails, and his mother has flown in from Minnesota.

Anchorage police create task force to target gang problem

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage officials have created a law enforcement team that will target what they say is a serious street gang problem in the city.

The task force will focus on as many as 12 gangs this summer.

Mayor Mark Begich and Police Chief Walt Monegan announced the project on Wednesday, saying the task force will be disbanded in the fall but several officers will be dedicated to intelligence gathering on gang members for continued, sustained suppression.

Officials said the problem of gangs is getting out of hand and that as many as 500 young people could be involved. They said the recent rash of violence involving young people is the key motivation for the new approach.

Typically, victims have shown up at local hospitals with gunshot wounds saying they don't know why they were shot and unwilling to describe the circumstances or who was involved.

The local gangs are progressing from being groups of friends who commit minor crimes to organized units that steal cars, deal drugs, break into houses and more, Monegan said.

The gang task force will include three detective units working with federal agencies including the FBI, the Alaska National Guard, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney's Office.



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