January 2000 marked one of the worst air disasters in the U.S. The Alaska Airlines Flight 261 from Mexico bound for Seattle crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing all the passengers and crewmembers. The captain and his assistant, with close communication with the engineers on the ground, struggled to control the plane while the engineers on the ground attempted with little success. Immediately after the crash, the investigations commenced to ascertain the cause of the accident (Adam, 2001). In December 2002, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the crash was a result of insufficient grease to lubricate the jackscrew that jammedthe plane’s horizontal stabilizer. The blame was laid squarely on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Alaska Airline for their failure to oversee the carrier servicing and maintenance (Goodman & Long, 2011). Additionally, the board also blamed Boeing for failure to install a fail-safe mechanism in case there was a total loss of the jackscrew.
The airline was investigated of fraudulent record keeping of Alaskan Airline in Oakland showing when the plane was last serviced. The investigation also revealed that the airline tried to conceal the cause of the crash, but the United States Attorney’s office decided not to file any criminal charges against the involved parties. However, Boeing settled 87 out of the 88 death suits that resulted from the crash. Although the financial details were kept private, the lawyers claimed that it was one of the best payouts in an air disaster (Goodman & Long, 2011). The relatives of the deceased received compensation, which covered the physical and emotional distress suffered by the passengers of the ill-fated plane.
After the accident and investigation were completed, it was evident that that the FAA, Alaska Airline, and Boeing Company were to blame for the crash. Thus, the families of the victims had the right to sue the airline for damages. In addition, the State could have sued the Federal Aviation Administration for their failure to follow the maintenance procedure of the plane (Adam, 2001). Moreover, the families and Alaskan airline would also have sued the Boeing Company for their failure to install a backup mechanism in case jackscrew failed, which would have been employed in the case of the Flight 261 crash (Barry & Jill, 2001). However, the families received compensation from the Airline and Boeing Company.
In response to the crash, the Alaska Airline offered to compensate all the victims, which covered all the passengers, crew and the staff of the airline. Initially, Alaskan Airline had already paid the passengers who were covered by the Warsaw Convention. Additionally, in memory of the victims of Flight 261, the airline mounted a sculpture of a leaping dolphin at Port Hueneme (Goodman & Long, 2011). The decision to compensate the families of the victims was made by the airline board after evidence clearly showed that most of the mistakes was entirely on the Alaskan Airline.
Notably, the Alaskan Airline flight 261 was one of the most devastating air disasters in the United States. The company had a reputation of flying even in the most difficult weather. However, the investigations from flight 261 crash revealed that the airline had forgone some of the maintenance procedures, which was one of the main causes of the accident. After lengthy negotiations, the airline decided to compensate fully the families of the deceased. The FAA and Boeing Company were also to blame for the accident due to their failure to ensure that maintenance standards were followed, including a backup mechanisms in case the normal one failed.
Adam, C. (2000, Feb 06). The fall of flight 261. Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,38815-1,00.html
Barry, F. & Jill, D. (2001). The status of pending air crash litigation. Journal of Air Law and Commerce, 66(4), 1367-1402. Retrieved from https://scholar.smu.edu/jalc/vol66/iss4/4/
Goodman, C & Long, P. (2011). Alaska flight 261 bound for Seattle crashes into the Pacific Ocean on January 31, 2000. History Link.org. Retrieved from https://www.historylink.org/File/2958