‘Alaska Airlines Flight Inquiry: Upping the Ante’ Says NTSB Chair

The stakes couldn’t be higher in the investigation of the April 9th Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash that killed 88 people. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Robert Sumwalt III and other NTSB staff members have been working hard to determine the cause of the plane’s demise. In a recent news conference, Chair Sumwalt said that NTSB staff has been running around the clock, examining possible causes and interviewing witnesses, and that the inquiry is well underway. Its complexities, he said, are revealing themselves one piece at a time. “We need to look at everything that might have contributed to this accident,” he declared. “Safety comes before everything else.” Sumwalt added that the NTSB was working with aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas and engine maker Pratt & Whitney on aspects of the inquiry. NTSB staff also are analyzing a wide range of potential causes related to human and mechanical factors. In addition, maintenance records are being carefully reviewed. “We’re going to do a thorough, good investigation; that’s the NTSB’s mission,” chair Sumwalt said. The inquiry into the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 tragedy is especially important due to an ever-growing commercial airline industry over the globe. Sumwalt also noted that many of the passengers onboard Flight 261 had begun an international trip when the plane went down. “It’s not just a matter of this particular aircraft; it’s a matter of aircraft in general,” Sumwalt said. “We are looking at this accident very seriously. We want to insure that whatever caused this accident is not repeated.” Clearly, an in-depth inquiry is essential in order to establish the safety of commercial air travel. The NTSB is to be commended for taking on such a challenging mission. With the stakes this high, their effort is greatly appreciated.

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