HomeEconomy‘Sky-High Stakes’ in Alaska Air Flight Inquiry, NTSB Chair Warns

‘Sky-High Stakes’ in Alaska Air Flight Inquiry, NTSB Chair Warns

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has undertaken an extensive investigation into the crash of Alaska Air Flight 261 on January 31, 2020. At a press briefing on March 13, NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt declared “the stakes are high” for such investigations.

The Boeing MD-83 aircraft pound near Anacapa Island off the California coast, instigating a dramatic rescue effort and emotional grief shared nationwide. Aboard the flight were 83 passengers and five crew members. All of them perished in the crash.

The investigation began on February 15th, and the Alaska Airline inquiry is tasked with finding out what went wrong to cause the aircraft’s tragic demise. Most notably, the investigators are looking into whether the aircraft was equipped with the latest safety technology that would have prevented the accident.

To date, the NTSB has performed 11 days of investigative work. Sumwalt stated that 150 evidence boxes of recovered wreckage have been brought to a secure facility in Phoenix, Arizona, and will undergo detailed and prioritize double examination. While the Chairman noted that findings may currently be visibly evident on the wreckage, the NTSB needs to ensure an overwhelming “chain of evidence”.

In order to help the NTSB in their investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive granting the jetliner and other MD-83 aircraft additional surveillance and operational restrictions, as well as an indefinite “design standardization”. Chair Sumwalt has stated that this directive was the right option to be taken at the time, and that “the safest operations are those aligned with the most stringent structural limitations”.

In response to the crash, the NTSB launched a comprehensive review of all MD-83 aircraft and other McDonnell Douglas-made airplanes. This review is expected to take about 18 to 24 months to complete.

The NTSB has worked diligently to answer to the unresolved questions of this tragedy. In the spirit of transparency, Chairman Sumwalt concluded the briefing by expressing appreciation to the families of the victims and assuring the public of the NTSB’s unwavering commitment to safety. He further promised that in the end, the Alaska Airline inquiry will produce an answer to the question “Why did this happen?”.