A personal word from your Webmaster:
Like thousands of others, 12 years ago today I was horrified to learn of the crash of Alaska Flight 261.
The plane left from Puerto Vallarta, the same day my parents flew home from there on Alaska. It is sheer luck they weren’t on that plane. Other people I knew weren’t so lucky.
I was in Mexico myself at the time. I almost didn’t get there, thanks again to Alaska and their POS MD-80s. My flight from Seattle 11 days earlier experienced a problem so severe on take-off that we were forced to make an immediate emergency landing. Something literally blew at the back of the plane. We heard several loud bangs, like minor explosions, and the plane lurched to the right. We all thought we were going to be tarmac dust. Even the stews were fighting back tears, while trying to reassure the passengers. I’d already written my family a good-bye note with a Sharpie on the drop-down tray. One of the stews asked me to come with her to the back of the plane, just in case they needed help forcing the rear door open. She was crying about her two young children she feared would soon be motherless.
Nothing like looking out the window and seeing the runway lined with fire engines and emergency vehicles. We were all lucky to make it off that plane in one piece, and at least Alaska gave me free drinks on the replacement flight.
But 11 days later, another piece-of-crap Alaska MD-80 flipped upside down and killed 88 people. I tried to get some answers. Ten years later I’m still waiting for them.
1. The FAA told me that Alaska filed a “minor” incident report on my plane’s problem. They never went into specifics.
2. After Flight 261 crashed, CBS News reported that “several loud bangs were heard coming from the back of the plane” before the crash. That’s EXACTLY the sound we heard on my plane.
3. For ten years I’ve been trying to find out if my plane was the same as the one used for Flight 261. Nobody’s talking.
4. Twelve years ago I wrote everyone I knew in the Seattle media, asking them to chase this info down. I gave them plenty of specifics. Not a single one of them ever answered me.
5. Alaska made a big deal in August 2008 when they “retired” their last MD-80. That would be about 8 years too late for the victims of Flight 261. Those death traps should have been permanently grounded at least ten years earlier, but Alaska kept flying them long after it was clear they had recurring problems. In the few days and weeks after Flight 261 crashed, an MD-80 pulled into SFO with an engine on fire. In Dallas, another MD-80 full of people nearly plowed up a field.
And btw, American Airlines still loves its MD-80s. Want to have some fun? Search “American Airlines MD 80 emergency” and look at the huge list of events that comes up. For example: On February 22, 2008, a Stage 1 alert was declared at MIA after a Chicago-bound MD-80 developed mechanical problems leaving Palm Beach. On January 10, 2012, an American MD-80 bound from Mexico to North Texas made an emergency landing in El Paso. On January 28, 2012, an engine failed on a flight to Seattle, and the plane had to make an emergency landing in Boise. How many more reasons do you need to NOT fly American and its decrepit fleet of garbage scows?
I’ve saved all my e-mails and letters regarding Flight 261. I will try to post them here.
Meanwhile, here’s a ten year anniversary story from the Seattle Times. Please take some time to read how the surviving friends and families have had to deal with their loss.
Only a brief passing mention is made of Tom and Peggy Stockley, who were killed on 261. Tom had been the wine writer at the Times for years, an exceedingly credible journalist whose reviews and opinions were highly regarded by consumers and wine industry people alike. There is a memorial bench dedicated to the Stockleys at the foot of East Lynn Street in Seattle, looking out over Lake Union. It’s right across the street from Pete’s Market, one of Seattle’s better known wine outlets.
The tag at the end of the Times article says, “Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich contributed to this report…” Miletich and I worked together at the Bellevue Journal-American 30+ years ago. He was one of the first media people I contacted about 261. He was also one of those who didn’t respond.
For the record, I did not start this web site because of Flight 261. That tragedy was only one in the ongoing saga of Alaska’s poor service, cheap shortcuts, shoddy maintenance and insults ranging from outrageous baggage fees to “random” personal searches and — this really happened — being told that I could not have a seat on a plane because I would “imbalance the load.” I weigh 170 lbs and had one 30-lb. bag.
There are many good people who work for this airline, and they try hard to make things right. Sometimes they succeed, despite all odds. But there are also unmitigated, greedy, bean-counting assholes who run this airline, and gate agents in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Burbank (among others) who are either ragingly incompetent or criminally insane. You can be the nicest, most accommodating passenger in the world (which is me 99.9% of the time) and still have some pre-menstrual, man-hating, honeybunch on a bender glare at you and sneer, “Sir, if you’re going to be argumentative I’m going to have to call security!”
Yeah, well, F you, too, bizzatch! Next time go ahead and call. Let’s see what they say when I tell them YOU’RE the one with the attitude problem.
I’ve had it with Alaska’s abusive control freaks, fools and idiots who’ve risen to the level of their own incompetence. (Which, in some cases, doesn’t take much effort.) And I’ll bet lots of you have, too.