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Independent Safety Team Makes Recommendations to Alaska; Centralization of Safety Functions and Better Communication Are Over-riding Themes.

Business Editors/Travel Writers

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 6, 2000

The independent panel of 13 safety experts that Alaska Airlines commissioned in the spring has forwarded its report to the airline.

"The assessment team, which was augmented by four Alaska pilots and four Alaska aircraft technicians, has done a remarkable job," said Bill Ayer, Alaska's president and chief operating officer. "The recommendations will significantly strengthen the safety culture at Alaska and guide us in the future. We have already begun implementing them."

The team was headed by Jack Enders, former manager of Aviation Safety Research for NASA and past president and vice chairman of the Flight Safety Foundation, and Bill Hendricks, former director of accident investigation for both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In releasing the executive summary of the 73-page report, Ayer noted that, "Throughout the conversations John Kelly and I had with Jack and Bill and the other members of the team, one thing stood out -- the quality of our people and their dedication to the airline and to safety."

Hendricks said Alaska Airlines has a safe and effective operation, but needs to continue centralizing safety functions.

"Of all the airlines I've looked at over the last several years, I would say Alaska Airlines is one of the top airlines in overall terms of safety of operations," Hendricks said. "The true test of an airline is its ability to safely deliver its passengers from point A to point B. In our audit we looked at the processes behind how Alaska Airlines does this, we rode the airline, and it was our definite view that the airline was operating safely. We found no glaring safety deficiencies. But the safety elements of the airline were too diffused. Several safety elements are now being centralized and this will do a lot to add to their safety culture. The litmus test for me is that I would get on their airplanes and I would put my family on any one of their airplanes."

Enders said that effective communication was the area most wanting at the airline.

"If there is an Achilles heel in aviation overall, it is communications," Enders said. "To be more specific, it's really communicating what is meant by the regulatory and company requirements, communicating how those requirements will be met in practice, following up with audits to make sure compliance is met, and ensuring that the employees see a total commitment to safety by the senior management of the airline and its board of directors. Alaska Airlines ranks above the average of airlines I've seen worldwide in this commitment. They need to improve the way they communicate this commitment to the workforce and the supervisors."

In all, the panel provided the airline 170 recommendations. Among them:

-- Develop clearer lines of authority and define

responsibilities.

-- Increase staffing to better coordinate and direct safety

activities and improve organizational structure.

-- Enhance standardization, especially as it relates to

documentation and training.

-- Develop a more robust system of internal audits.

-- Rewrite the General Maintenance Manual to clarify procedures,

prepare new procedures that reflect current practices, bring

greater consistency to work performed, and eliminate or reduce

interpretation of policies and procedures.

-- Strengthen existing training programs; provide better

coordination between departments; and provide better record

keeping and more consistent procedures.

-- Employ certain automated systems to assist with the

timeliness, accuracy and ease of a number of tasks.

The purpose of the assessment was to focus on how Alaska Airlines functions as an organization in regard to safety and how management oversees safety issues, and to evaluate the airlines' internal safety policies, procedures and practices and how it conforms to these policies, procedures and practices across the spectrum of airline activities. In short, the team approached its assessment from a "best practices in the industry" standpoint, not the regulatory compliance viewpoint which is the purview of the FAA.

"Of critical importance now is what we do with the recommendations," said Ayer. "I can tell you that implementation began weeks ago. Revisions to the General Maintenance Manual, for instance, already have been made and many of the staffing recommendations already have been adopted. We will make the improvements necessary to achieve a level of excellence in safety that will lead our industry. Taking action on the assessment team's recommendations is a major step in that direction."

The assessment team began its work on April 10 and concluded its on-site information gathering on May 19. Analysis of the information and report preparation followed.

To read the team's executive summary and full report, please click on Alaska's employee website at www.alaskasworld.com. Also at that website is background information on each of the 13 members of the assessment team.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 6, 2000
Words:786
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