What the FAA has said about Alaska Airlines

Posted: Sunday, June 18, 2000

Over the past few weeks, a fatal crash and several other incidents have raised concerns about the safety of Alaska Airlines.

We in Juneau obviously follow with great interest what happens and what actions the airline takes. Let's face it, it has the name ``Alaska'' in it. But more importantly, it's our only jet service out of the capital.

That in itself is critical. Without the airline, Juneau and many other parts of the state would be without any major airline. Mail, food and other necessary items simply couldn't get here or would be severely delayed.

We consider Alaska Airlines as ``our'' airline. And it obviously concerns us with the airline facing a myriad of troubles: an investigation into the fatal crash of Flight 261, allegations of improper maintenance procedures, a grand jury investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration's recent threat to shut down the airline's heavy maintenance operations.

The crash and other incidents that have plagued Alaska Airlines are tragic, not only for the company, but those passengers and employees involved. Yet we continue to believe the airline is one of the safest in the country.

Yet with all the media attention, it appears the airline isn't safe. However, it is important to note that the FAA has never suggested shutting the airline down. What the federal agency has said is that Alaska Airlines couldn't prove - on paper - that proper maintenance was being done. The agency never said the work wasn't being done, just that the paperwork wasn't sufficient. What the FAA said was that Alaska would have to prove it had the proper paperwork, and if it couldn't, then the airline could not do heavy maintenance work on its fleet.

As the FAA's Nick Lacey, director of flight standards service, said, ``If we had found maintenance that was not performed, or sloppy, we would be taking a different course. We would not hesitate to shut the airline down.''

We fully support the ongoing investigations and if the airline is at fault action should be taken based on the severity of the problems uncovered. Yet we also believe it important for the public to really understand what the FAA, which regulates airlines, has said about Alaska Airlines.

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