Alaska Airlines Flight 261: Questions Raised Over '97 Inspection of PlaneAired February 14, 2000 - 1:05 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: This morning was the deadline for the nation's airlines to finish their mandatory inspections of the horizontal stabilizers on their MD-80s, MD-90s, DC-9s and Boeing 717s.
At last report, eight airlines had turned up planes with the problems. Also, today, questions are being raised about a 1997 inspection of the Alaska Airlines jet that crashed two weeks ago.
CNN's Carl Rochelle joins us now from Washington with more about that. Carl?
CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the problem turned up when the National Transportation Safety Board maintenance records groups went to check the maintenance records at the Alaska Airlines plane. And they found that that same plane, the very same Flight 261 that crashed off the California coast, when its jackscrew gimbal nut assembly was inspected on September 29 of 1997, the mechanics found that it was at the -- at the -- final point that it should not be any further -- should not go any further -- without being replaced. And it was a recommendation that they would replace it the next day.
Well, what happened is, the next day, it was inspected again. This is the -- this is the jackscrew assembly. And, you can see the metal fragments that came off it have been determined to have come off of the gimbal nut in it.
Let me show you exactly what we're talking about. This is a little shaky because I'm holding it in my hand. This is the jackscrew itself. And this is the gimbal nut assembly right here, where it attaches. And this area, it was found to be right on the edge of where it couldn't be worn any more without being replaced.
Now, what happened instead of replacing it as the maintenance order had recommended, the next day it was measured again by a different mechanic and found to be within tolerance and was not replaced. The last inspection was done on that in September 30 of 1997, more than two years ago.
Now, in deference to the company, we are told that it is a good maintenance practice to inspect something like this more than one time. The National Transportation Safety Board says the significance of this information is continuing to be evaluated by the National Transportation Safety Board. And no determination has been made whether the accident has any bearing on this -- the information has any bearing on this.
Now, one more thing: Making the issue more complex is the fact that this airline, Alaska Airlines, maintenance base in Oakland has been the subject of federal investigations over allegations of -- that some maintenance records may have been falsified -- Lou.
WATERS: Carl, about the current inspections, we reported eight airliners turned up with some problems. Do we know what kind of problems? And has the deadline been met by all of the airlines for inspecting their planes?
ROCHELLE: Lou, a little clarification on that: 21 total were found to have some problems. Of those 21, 13 were repaired or replaced and returned to service; eight are still being looked at.
No, the deadline is not here. And the reason why is all the airlines were given 72 hours to comply, but that is 72 hours from the time they received the notification, and some of them were sent out by e-mail, some were sent out by fax, some were sent out by various and sundry other methods. So, they had 72 hours.
We won't know the final totals, probably I am told perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday of the week, possibly more. But, as of the last report, 21 total had been found to have problems.
The interesting thing, Lou, there were eight Alaska Airlines planes that were found to have problems out of a fleet of only 34 of this MD-80 series aircraft in Alaska Airlines -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Carl Rochelle following the story in Washington.
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