I recently read the NTSB’s report and findings on Alaska Air flight 261. One of my neighbors was killed on the flight. I was in Puerto Vallarta on the day of the crash. I had flown into Puerto Vallarta on an Alaska flight.
One of the recommendations in the NTSB report was that the FAA should follow up on it’s oversight of maintenance at Alaska Air. The report stated that the FAA made a review of Alaska Air’s maintenance program and found several deficiencies. A follow up review revealed that several problems still existed at Alaska. The NTSB report suggested that further oversight of Alaska Air by the FAA is still needed.
I would like to know what steps the FAA has taken to ensure that maintenance at Alaska Air is being done correctly. If there is something wrong at Alaska Air, why is the airline allowed to operate?
I am expressly concerned, not only since my neighbor needlessly died in what the NTSB termed a maintenance accident, but because I intend to fly with my family on Alaska Air next month. We had heard about the FAA oversight of the Alaska Maintenance program and believed that the problems at Alaska had been corrected. It has been three years since flight 261 crashed into the Pacific killing all 88 aboard. That would be ample time in my mind for the FAA to have acted in a diligent manner to correct deficiencies at Alaska. Now with the recent NTSB report we see that further follow-up oversight at Alaska is needed and recommended.
This is very unsettling since we are booked on an Alaska flight less than 30 days from now. Can you assure me that the FAA has done everything that needs to be done at Alaska Air? Would you characterize Alaska Air’s fleet as well maintained and now meets the scrutiny of the FAA?
I need to know what the FAA knows about Alaska Air, and I need to know soon. Please respond to my questions about Alaska Air as soon as possible.
Grant A. Silvey, PE
Dear Mr. Silvey:
We have been asked to respond to your recent e-mail regarding the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) recent findings on Alaska Airlines flight 261. Please accept our sincere condolences for the loss of your neighbor in that tragic accident.
As you indicated, the NTSB was critical of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) oversight of the company at the time of the accident. Both before and after the accident we have taken actions to strengthen the FAA’s surveillance of the carrier. Staffing at the Alaska Airlines Certificate Management Office (ASAA CMO), the FAA organization responsible for oversight of the airline has increased from 15 to 37 since the accident. In addition, 10 remotely sited inspectors assist in conducting surveillance of the carrier in Anchorage, Oakland and Los Angeles.
We also conducted a special national safety inspection (NSI) of the airline following the accident. In response to the FAA’s proposal to suspend the carrier’s heavy maintenance authorization following the NSI, Alaska Airlines proposed an action plan that implemented significant changes in maintenance, operations and management. A FAA safety panel that included inspectors from the local, regional and national levels monitored performance of this action plan to completion. Top level management at the airline continues to meet with the CMO manager and supervisory inspectors on a quarterly basis to provide updates.
FAA regulations mandate that airlines serving the general public maintain the highest level of safety. Alaska Airlines has made significant changes since the accident in order to maintain that standard. We believe the current structure of the Alaska CMO is sufficient to allow the FAA to provide the oversight necessary to make sure the airline maintains the highest level of safety and we are confident that standard is currently being met.
On a personal note, since the accident I have bought several tickets for my wife and myself to go on vacation on Alaska Airlines. Those trips included like yours, a trip to Mexico and as recent as November to Phoenix. I can assure you that I feel comfortable with the service and reliability of Alaska Airlines aircraft.
Timothy L. Miller
Alaska Airlines Principal Maintenance Inspector