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CNN Today

Airlines Begin Series of Inspections of Horizontal Stabilizer Jackscrews

Aired February 10, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Airlines have begun a series of inspections, prompted by last week's crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. They're concerned about indications that a damaged horizontal stabilizer jackscrew, it's called, may have played a role in the disaster. Alaska Airlines, American and Delta were first to announce these inspections, then Boeing recommended that other airlines follow suit with safety checks on about 2,000 airliners.

CNN's Katharine Barrett joins us from Boeing headquarters in Seattle with more about all of this -- Katherine.

KATHERINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. These inspections are already under way at airports around the country. Now, they're a five-point inspection. They take about two hours a piece to check out all these planes. American, Alaska and Delta began voluntarily inspecting their fleets before Boeing issued its recommendation. American said that was to underscore its commitment to the safety of its passengers and employees. American Airline says it will inspect all 284 of its MD-80 and MD-90s over the next week.

Now, there are 2,000 planes around the world covered by this recommendations, not just the two that I mentioned, but also DC-9s and Boeing 717s.

Alaska has inspected all of its relevant planes. Delta Airlines has inspected about half of its fleet. So far, sources tell CNN no unsafe conditions have been found that would call for any FAA action on the MD-80 series, but the FAA does call Boeing's decision to recommend these inspections prudent and, quote, "the right thing to do."

Now, this part, as you said, is the horizontal stabilizer assembly and the jackscrew. It's what raises and lowers the nose of the plane basically to keep it flying straight or up or down. The jackscrew is what drives that stabilizer. It's said to be similar to the long screws that drive some garage door openers. All of this came after that jackscrew from Alaska Air Flight 261 was found in the wreckage apparently damaged in some way.

Now, this also occurs as Boeing is undergoing a strike by its second-largest union. Engineers and technicians picketing in front of Boeing headquarters, where I'm standing now. They're picketing Boeing facilities up and down about a one-mile stretch of the street, here, and outside factories around the region here, but, again, they are the technicians, the engineers. Boeing's largest union is its machinists. They apparently are still on the assembly lines -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Katherine Barrett in Seattle.

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