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‘How High are the Stakes?’ Alaska Airlines Flight Inquiry Revealed by NTSB Chair

The investigation into the recent Alaska Airlines flight has been met with high stakes, according to Robert Sumwalt, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The plane, operating as Flight 261, crashed in the Pacific Ocean on January 31, killing all 88 people on board. According to Sumwalt, the NTSB is taking a comprehensive approach to the investigation—one which focuses on finding as much information as possible behind the tragedy. “This effort involves as many as 58 investigators from all parts of the world. We have gathered debris from both the interior and exterior of the aircraft, combed the ocean floor off the California coast, and taken testimony from many parties,” said Sumwalt. The NTSB is taking active steps to analyze all the factors that led to the crash. They’ve been analyzing the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, as well as examining the metal components of the aircraft for signs of fatigue or other signs of wear or mechanical failure. In addition, the NTSB has worked with the airplane’s manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to review maintenance records and maintenance practices of the airline. Sumwalt emphasizes that the NTSB takes great responsibility in finding the cause behind the crash of Flight 261. “It is our mission to find the cause of this tragedy and make recommendations to ensure this does not happen again,” he said. Given the complexity of the investigation, Sumwalt said it may take the NTSB several months before any report is made public. The NTSB also noted that any finding of the investigation’s cause may not be definitive, but instead “may simply provide more facts to enable further research.” The investigation of Flight 261 is ongoing and it is hoped that a full report will be available to the public soon. As Sumwalt stressed, the NTSB is committed to finding the cause of the crash and to ultimately protecting the safety of future air travelers.