SEATTLE -- Alaska Airlines is reviewing the maintenance records of most of its fleet after federal inspectors found two planes were prematurely returned to service.
The airline agreed to the sweeping action after Federal Aviation Administration inspectors discovered that the two planes were released from maintenance work without required paperwork. The discovery came during a "white-glove inspection" of Alaska's maintenance operations in Seattle, Oakland and other cities.
FAA spokesman Paul Turk said inspectors could not determine from the records whether certain work had been done on a Boeing 737 and an MD-80.
"Records didn't match up with the work," Turk said.
One of the planes was scheduled for a test flight at Alaska's Oakland maintenance facility last week, but the flight was stopped when an FAA inspector determined its maintenance records were inadequate, sources said. In the other case, a 737 was released for service in Seattle without a required second signature on a piece of maintenance paperwork, said Alaska spokesman Greg Witter.
Although no passengers fly on test flights, the pilot and people on the ground would be at risk in the event of a flight problem or crash, federal officials said.
Witter said the 737 was released for service in Seattle without a required second signature on a piece of maintenance paperwork.
The special fleetwide inspection was prompted by the crash of Alaska Flight 261, which took the lives of all 88 passengers and crew members off the Southern California coast Jan. 31.
FAA officials said the inspection, which began earlier this month, has been completed. Its conclusions will likely take several weeks to develop, but the finding of faulty paperwork on the two planes was presented to the airline for immediate action.
Alaska is reviewing records of its most recent heavy-maintenance checks on 81 of its 89 planes.