News the government has given Alaska Airlines seven days to respond to concerns about maintenance oversight throws a cloud across the entire region's economy.
Alaska Airlines is the Interior's largest air passenger carrier. On any given day Alaska Airlines accounts for as many as 15 of the 19 non-commuter, domestic flights transiting Fairbanks International Airport.
We don't have any count of the sheer numbers of Fairbanks-bound tourists, oil field workers and other business travelers arriving aboard Alaska Airlines flights on a daily basis, but it's certain the troubled carrier holds a whopping percentage of our local air passenger traffic.
The implications of a maintenance-driven service cutback or shutdown are far-reaching.
Upholding aviation safety standards of the highest order is paramount, of course, particularly in a state such as Alaska, possessing treacherous geography and subject to all manner of weather extremes.
The sadness blanketing this community five months after the tragic crash of Flight 261 near Los Angeles vividly underscores the stakes for all concerned.
Nick Lacey, the Federal Aviation Administration's director of flight standards, portrayed the agency's threat to lift the airline's maintenance authority as a move to encourage the airline to correct management problems. Of particular concern, according to news reports, was the inadequate documentation on some 150 scheduled heavy-maintenance jobs.
Let's hope Alaska Airlines can swiftly demonstrate competence on the ground to match the skills of its familiar pilots. Loss of the carrier's services for any extended period would place Fairbanks a lot farther off the beaten track. ----
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