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`Seattle Times' Reports FBI Joining Investigation of Alaska Airlines Crash

Aired March 20, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI reportedly is joining the investigation into the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. "The Seattle Times" reports federal agents are focusing on maintenance practices, specifically mechanics who say they were pressured to cut corners.

CNN's Don Knapp joins us from Seattle where the Alaska Airlines chairman has been talking with the media -- Don.

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. We're at the Museum of Flight here in Seattle, just across the road from Boeing Aircraft Company. And in a room in this building is where the CEO of Alaska Airlines decided to discuss all those issues. The issue you raised, whether there was a new FBI criminal investigation, he denied: He said he had no knowledge. All he understood, it was the ongoing 15-month-old investigation that originated in the Oakland maintenance facility.

What prompted all of this today was probably the letter from 64 maintenance employees of the Seattle maintenance facility. These were mechanics who wrote a letter to the CEO saying they have been feeling pressured, threatened and intimidated in their efforts to cut corners and that they were being forced to less-than-adequate work.

The CEO says they have since received that letter, which was sent on Thursday, sat down with many of those employees and discussed what their concerns were.

Here's what he told us at the news conference just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, CHAIRMAN & CEO, ALASKA AIRLINES: The allegations in the letter pertain to our base maintenance manager and their perception that he was asking them to do things that he shouldn't be asking them to do. That was the -- that was the allegation. We sat down, the FAA and ourselves, interviewed the individuals, 51 of them so far, and they have said that there has been no aircraft that has been returned to service in an unairworthy, unsafe, or violating any FARs.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KNAPP: Overhaul and audit of his safety facilities, and that he was appointing a new vice president in charge of safety.

Reporting live, Don Knapp, CNN, Seattle, Washington.

ALLEN: Don, regarding the crash and the investigation, what do you know about employee morale there at the airlines?

I'm sorry. He can't hear me any longer. We'll move on to other news.

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