Plane Returns After Gear Door Left Open
What is it about Alaska
Airlines' Flight 536? Last month, the Seattle-Burbank flight
gained notoriety when an MD-80 lost cabin pressure at 26,000 feet
due to a dent in the airliner's fuselage -- which was
later traced back to an errant ramp worker (who hadn't reported the
accident). Now comes word last week, another MD-80 flying the route
had to make an emergency landing when a ramp worker failed to close
a landing gear door after changing a taxi light.
Passengers told the Associated Press everybody on board the
aircraft noticed the severe vibration caused by the door -- which
usually only opens briefly when the gear is cycled -- almost as
soon as the aircraft lifted off the ground last Wednesday.
“The second the plane lifted off, it wasn’t trying
anything dramatic, but you could feel the resistance,” said
passenger Nick Block, 21, to the Seattle Times.
The flight crew brought the airliner back to Sea-Tac 16 minutes
later. While the landing was uneventful, Port of Seattle fire
trucks and emergency vehicles were standing by at the pilot’s
request... just in case, said airport spokesman Bob Parker.
It's the latest in a series of maintenance challenges involving
Alaska Air and its contractor at Sea-Tac, Menzies Aviation. In
addition to last month's incident, a Menzies worker also accidentally pulled
a 737 forward at the gate last week as passengers were
boarding for a flight to Dallas. The airliner's right engine
nacelle struck a baggage loader, and the open door hit the
Menzies isn't the only contractor Alaska is having issues with,
however. Last week, Aero-News reported on emergency lights
that weren't installed properly by Goodrich Aviation
Services on one of the carrier's 737-200 Combis. Even
after the problem was discovered, Alaska then installed the
incorrect parts -- which led to the airliner flying a total of 478
flights in what the FAA defines as a non-airworthy condition.
On the heels of the
latest incident, Aero-News has learned Alaska's vice president for
safety is leaving the company. Dave Prewitt will join Sikorsky in a
similar role. There have been other changes at the top for Alaska
Air... perhaps indications of a shake-up?
In any case, Alaska Airlines continues to say that in spite of
the problems, it stands solidly behind its contractors.