Alaska Air Accident
One of the most horrifying incidents for any pilot is having an airplane failure when in flight. On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines, Inc., flight 261a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, N963AS, crashed into the Pacific Ocean due to a technical failure. The two pilots, three cabin crew members, and 83 passengers on board were killed and the plane was destroyed by the impact forces (National Transport Safety Board [NTSB] 15). This plane was flying from Lic Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the probable cause of the accident was a loss of the airplane pitch control due to the in-flight failure of the horizontal stabilizer trim system jackscrew assembly’s acme threads (NTSB 56). Alaska’s Airline insufficient lubrication of the jackscrew assembly was the cause of the excessive wear of the acme threads (NTSB 57). Also the absence of a fail–safe mechanism to prevent catastrophic effects caused by the loss of acme nut thread in the plane contributed to this accident.
In my opinion, the pilots did everything within their power to fly the plane. Unfortunately, their attempt to unjam the horizontal stabilizer, which was making the plane to nose dive, resulted in the total failure of the already worn-out jackscrew assembly. Alaska Airline’s failure to service its planes as required was the main cause of this catastrophe. If the company had serviced its airplanes as required, it would have detected and replaced the worn-out jackscrew assembly.
The pilots’ actions were ethical and important in ensuring the plane landed safely. If the jackscrew assembly had not been significantly damaged, their actions would have enabled the airplane to land safely. On the contrary, Alaska Airline’s action of extending their planes service period were unethical. Although this plan enabled the company to make a lot of short term profits, it put the lives of most of its passengers in danger. In fact, investigations into the company showed that most of its McDonnell Douglas MD-83 had a similar problem.
Given that the cause of the flight 261a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 accident was a technical failure due to unethical practices of the Alaska Airlines Inc., ethical practices can indeed prevent similar catastrophes. If the company had serviced its airplanes according to the NTSB standards, it would have detected the worn-out parts of the plane and replaced them. Therefore, businesses and individuals should have good values in order to protect their customers and themselves.
Works Cited
National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). “Aircraft Accident Report: Loss of Control and Impact with Pacific Ocean Alaska Airlines Flight 261 McDonnell Douglas MD-83, N963AS About 2.7 Miles North of Anacapa Island, California January 31, 2000.” NTSB/AAR-02/01 PB2002-910402 Notation 7163E, 30 December 2002, p. 1-250. Available from