Alaska mechanic taped supervisor saying he altered maintenance records

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- A mechanic for Alaska Airlines has testified that he wore a hidden microphone, at the request of federal agents, and recorded a supervisor admitting he falsified an aircraft maintenance record.

The 1998 recording was disclosed during a Jan. 11 deposition by mechanic John Liotine, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

The sworn testimony also contained a detailed account about irregularities Liotine said he saw at Alaska's maintenance facility in Oakland, Calif., between 1994 and 1998.

The allegations of altering maintenance records aren't directly related to the January 2000 crash of Alaska Flight 261, which killed 88 people off the coast of Southern California in the Pacific Ocean. But the Seattle-based airline's maintenance practices have come under scrutiny since the crash. Liotine has become a key figure in the investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to revoke the mechanic's license of the supervisor, John Nanney. Liotine claims Nanney falsified a maintenance record for a Boeing MD-80 jetliner on Dec. 1, 1998.

Liotine said he grounded the jet before it was released for passenger service because of a throttle problem, which was then fixed.

Nanney failed to fix throttles that were running with different settings, Liotine told federal investigators. The problem, called a throttle split, is a discrepancy between adjustments of the two engines' throttle levers, which control the flow of fuel to the engines

Nanney has denied the allegations, and Alaska officials say they have no merit.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco has heard secret testimony about Liotine's allegations against Nanney, but the matter is still being looked at by the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco. The review was prolonged by the crash, since the grand jury began hearing testimony about that.

Liotine became a prominent figure in the crash investigation after it was revealed that in 1997 he ordered the replacement of an important part on the plane that crashed. The part was not replaced because other mechanics overruled Liotine.

The FAA audited the airline's maintenance practices after the crash, and Alaska made changes after serious flaws were discovered. The company's procedures now comply with safety regulations, the FAA said.

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