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Government Proposes Steps to Correct Alaska Airlines' Maintenance Problems

Aired June 2, 2000 - 2:06 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 FAA says it has found serious problems with the way Alaska Airlines documents its jet maintenance and repairs. The agency is taking steps to stop the carrier from working on its own planes.

Carl Rochelle joins us now to tell us what is behind all of this -- Carl.

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, they took a close look at Alaska Airlines, prompted by the crash of Flight 261 that crashed off of Los Angeles, January 31, that killed 88 people. That's part of the reason the FAA began to look very carefully into the maintenance practices of the airline and they found them wanting in several areas. And because of that, they have proposed lifting their authority to conduct heavy maintenance.

Now, here's what they found, they found that essentially, they were doing good maintenance, but they were break downs in record keeping, documentation, and quality assurance. It also found that maintenance personnel were not following FAA-approved procedures that are contained in the airline's manuals. This effects both of Alaska Airlines maintenance bases, the one in Seattle, which essentially maintenances their 737s, and the one in Oakland, which takes care of their DC-9s.

And what the FAA doing is telling Alaska Airlines it has seven days to come up with more information. In other words, a proposal when and how they will straighten out this paper-keeping mess that they are involved in. And then within 30 days, they have 30 days beyond that point to get all of it implemented and taken care of. If they don't, then the FAA will come in and shut down their maintenance operations completely. In the interim, the Alaska will be allowed to continue doing its maintenance and FAA inspectors will stay there and look over their shoulders, for all practical purposes, and make sure the documentation is done correctly, and make sure that everything is done as ordered.

The officials told me that they did not find any safety of flight problems, in other words, nothing was not fixed correctly. Everything was fixed like it should have been, but they didn't document it right, they didn't write down what they did and sometimes they did things like: Well, it seems like -- this seems to be the way to take care of it, so let's do it this way rather than going down the book and following complete procedures, step-by-step. And they say that's a very dangerous practice in airlines and so they have told them to get it right, get it straight or they are not going to be able to take care of their maintenance anymore.

Natalie, one more thing, they're not going to allow them to contract maintenance out because they said: If you can't do your own paperwork, then you can't keep track of maintenance done by someone else for you, so if you don't get the problem fixed, then you're going to park the airplanes -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, thanks for the report, Carl Rochelle in Washington.

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