View Full Version : Alaska Airlines and depressurization

24th Feb 2006, 16:56
An excerpt from today's Seattle Times:

Feb. 23: Forty-five minutes after departing Juneau, Alaska, the altitude-warning horn sounded aboard Flight 65, indicating insufficient cabin pressure. The 737-400 descended to 10,000 feet and continued to Anchorage as planned. One passenger was treated for ear pain. The cause of the incident is under review.

Feb. 22: Flight 397 from Ontario, Calif., to Seattle landed in Los Angeles because the crew believed the MD-80 was pressurizing more slowly than usual. A post-flight inspection indicated the system was functioning within normal levels.

Feb. 21: Flight 100 from Portland to Denver returned to Portland after oxygen masks in the 737-400 deployed 15 minutes after takeoff. The reason for the deployment, and whether it was linked to a pressurization problem, are under review.

Feb. 18: Flight 1 from Washington Reagan National to Seattle was diverted to Washington Dulles after pilots noticed a problem with the 737-700's pressure six minutes after takeoff. Mechanics found a rear door had not been latched properly.

Feb. 14: Flight 578 from Seattle to Denver returned to Sea-Tac 15 or 20 minutes after departure after the 737-400's pressurization system malfunctioned. Five passengers were treated for ear and sinus pain. The cause was an electrical malfunction.

Dec. 26: Flight 536 from Seattle to Burbank, Calif., made an emergency landing at Sea-Tac after a 1-foot-by-6-inch hole opened in the fuselage of the MD-83 at 26,000 feet, causing the plane to lose pressure. A ramp worker had bumped the plane with a baggage loader before takeoff and failed to report it.

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And a National Transportation Safety Board official who studied Alaska's most dramatic recent depressurization incident said he did not consider the events especially troubling or unusual.

"Every morning, we get a list four pages long of these types of incidents," said Jim Struhsaker, a Seattle-based investigator with the NTSB. "Alaska does not have a corner on the market."

The NTSB keeps an eye out for patterns that might indicate underlying safety problems, but Struhsaker said he has not seen any sign of chronic woes in the Alaska pressurization incidents.

"Yes, they're having a little bit of a cycle," Struhsaker said, "but it just so happens they have been under the spotlight lately."

Struhsaker, the NTSB's lead investigator on that accident, said in an interview that he found no evidence of substandard training or oversight.

The NTSB will not publish his final report for another couple of months, but Struhsaker said yesterday his investigation is complete, and the findings should come as good news for Alaska and for Menzies, which handles Alaska's ramp operations at Sea-Tac.

Alaska hired Menzies in May to take over work previously done by 472 unionized workers the airline laid off in a cost-cutting move.

The worker who damaged the plane in December but failed to report it was a Menzies employee. Consequently, questions quickly arose about the quality and quantity of training Menzies workers were receiving.

"Whenever you have a big chunk of people coming in at once, it takes a while to get everyone on track," Struhsaker said.

He applauded the actions taken by Alaska and Menzies after the December incident. "They did a lot of things proactively to address the problem," he said.

24th Feb 2006, 23:07
It's about time ICAO lead a world-wide study into depressurisation accidents. In my view the rate of cabin depressurisations is totally unacceptable. The list given above could be replicated in other major airspace around the world.