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Alaska Airlines Cancels Flights to Reinspect MD-80 Jackscrews

Aired August 4, 2000 - 2:01 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: Seven months after a deadly accident, Alaska Airlines cancels flights and reinspects a critical part on many of its jets. The part, called a jackscrew assembly, has been the focus of an investigation into the crash that killed 88 people in January.

We get the latest on the reinspections and the travel cancellations from CNN's Greg Lefevre, who's in Oakland, California today keeping watch -- Greg.

GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou.

The whole issue is, how can you trust your own inspections? And we found out this week that Alaska Airlines does not trust its own inspections. It grounded 18 planes late last night because it wants to look again at that jackscrew.

At issues are the tools that Alaska uses to inspect the jackscrew. The is designed to determine exactly how much wear there is on the jackscrew. We understand that four-one-hundredths of an inch is the absolute tolerance. So Boeing, the manufacturer of the MD-80s, supplies the tool to the different airlines. The airlines are allowed to manufacture a duplicate of that tool.

Alaska has now determined that it cannot trust its own instrument and so it has brought these planes into the different inspection facilities here in Oakland and in Seattle to have one more look. It canceled 18 flights last night -- 19 flights last night. It canceled an anticipated 30 more flights today.

The inspections are supposed to be completed in about an hour, and Alaska will then try to get the planes back into service for the weekend traffic. We understand from Alaska that they hope for no more cancellations due to this problem over the weekend.

The FAA immediately, upon notice from Alaska Airlines last night, transferred another order to other airlines flying MD-80s saying that they should also check the tools they use to inspect their planes, and at the same time also inspect their MD-80s to make sure that the jackscrew wear, the wear -- the fraying, if you will, or the wearing down of the jackscrew, is not beyond tolerances.

Here at Oakland International Airport, traffic has been moving pretty much to normal. Folks lined up an hour and a half before the first flight this morning. Of the dozen or so flights that we checked, there was only one delay of about a half an hour, which is pretty close to normal. There is one flight canceled late tonight. We do not know if that is due to the jackscrew inspections.

Lou, back to you in Atlanta.

WATERS: All right, Greg Lefevre in Oakland today.

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