Alaska Airlines Flight 261
An Alaska Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-83, similar to the one involved
|Date||January 31, 2000|
|Summary||Jackscrew failure due to improper maintenance|
near Anacapa Island, California
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas MD-83|
|Flight origin||Lic. Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Int'l Airport|
|Stopover||San Francisco Int'l Airport|
|Destination||Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport|
Alaska Airlines Flight 261 was a scheduled international passenger flight on January 31, 2000 from Lic. Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington, with an intermediate stop at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California.:xii The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 2.7 miles (4.3 km) north of Anacapa Island, California after suffering a catastrophic loss of pitch control. The crash killed everyone aboard: two pilots, three cabin crewmembers, and 83 passengers.
The subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that inadequate maintenance led to excessive wear and eventual failure of a critical flight control system during flight. The probable cause was stated to be "a loss of airplane pitch control resulting from the in-flight failure of the horizontal stabilizer trim system jackscrew assembly's acme nut threads. The thread failure was caused by excessive wear resulting from Alaska Airlines' insufficient lubrication of the jackscrew assembly".:xii
- 1 Aircraft
- 2 Accident flight
- 3 Investigation
- 4 Conclusions
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 Maps
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The aircraft, manufactured in 1992, had more than 26,000 hours of flight before the crash.
The pilots of Flight 261 were highly experienced. Captain Ted Thompson (53) had accrued 17,750 flight hours and he had more than 4,000 hours' experience flying MD-80s.:10–11 First Officer William "Bill" Tansky (57) had accumulated 8,140 total flight hours, including about 8,060 hours as first officer in the MD-80.:11 Neither pilot had been involved in an accident or incident prior to the crash.
Fifty people on board were bound for Seattle, 47 passengers and the three flight attendants; 32 passengers aboard the plane had San Francisco as their final destination, three had Eugene, Oregon, as their final destination, and one passenger was headed for Fairbanks, Alaska. Of the passengers, 1 was Mexican and 1 was British; the rest were American citizens.
At least 35 occupants, including 12 employees, were connected to Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air in some manner, leading many airline employees to mourn for those lost in the crash. Alaska Airlines stated that, during slower traveling days, it was common for employees to fill seats that would otherwise have been empty. Bouquets of flowers started arriving at the company's headquarters in SeaTac, Washington the day after the crash.
Initial flight segment
Alaska 261 departed from Puerto Vallarta at 13:37 PST, and climbed to its intended cruising altitude of flight level 310 (31,000 feet (9,400 m)). The plane was scheduled to land at San Francisco International Airport. By 15:27, approximately two hours into the flight, the flight crew contacted the airline's dispatch and maintenance control facilities in SeaTac, Washington, and on a shared company radio with operations and maintenance facilities at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) discussed a jammed horizontal stabilizer and a possible diversion to LAX. The jammed stabilizer prevented operation of the trim system, which would normally make slight adjustments to the flight control surfaces to keep the plane stable in flight. At their cruising altitude and speed, the position of the jammed stabilizer required the pilots to pull on their controls with approximately 10 pounds (44N) of force to keep level. Neither the flight crew, nor company maintenance, could determine the cause of the jam. Repeated attempts to overcome the jam with the primary and alternate trim systems were unsuccessful.
During this time, the flight crew had several discussions with the company dispatcher about whether to divert to Los Angeles, or continue on as planned to San Francisco. Ultimately the pilots chose to divert. Later, the NTSB found that while "the flight crew's decision to divert the flight to Los Angeles...was prudent and appropriate", nonetheless "Alaska Airlines dispatch personnel appear to have attempted to influence the flight crew to continue to San Francisco . . . instead of diverting to Los Angeles".:137 Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) transcripts indicate that the dispatcher was concerned about the effect on the schedule ("flow") should the flight divert.:195–197
First dive and recovery
At 16:09, the flight crew unjammed the horizontal stabilizer with the primary trim system, however, upon being freed, it quickly moved to an extreme "nose-down" position, forcing the aircraft into an almost vertical nosedive. The plane dropped from about 31,500 feet to between 23,000 and 24,000 feet in around 80 seconds. Both pilots struggled together to regain control of the aircraft, and only by pulling with 130 to 140 pounds-force (580 to 620 N) on the controls did the flight crew arrest the 6,000 foot-per minute descent of the aircraft and stabilize themselves at approximately 24,400 feet.
Alaska 261 informed air traffic control of their control problems. After the flight crew stated their intention to land at LAX, ATC asked if they wanted to proceed to a lower altitude in preparation for approach. The captain replied: "I need to get down to about ten, change my configuration, make sure I can control the jet and I'd like to do that out here over the bay if I may".:8 Later, during the public hearings into the accident, the request by the pilot not to overfly populated areas was specifically commended by NTSB board members.:6–9[not in citation given] During this time, the flight crew considered, and rejected, any further attempts to correct the runaway trim. They proceeded to descend to a lower altitude and started to configure the aircraft for landing at LAX.
Second dive and crash
Beginning at 16:19, the CVR recorded the sounds of at least four distinct "thumps" followed 17 seconds later by an "extremely loud noise" as the jackscrew failed and completely separated from the nut holding it in place. The aircraft rapidly pitched over into a dive. The crippled aircraft had been given a block altitude, and several aircraft in the vicinity had been alerted by ATC to maintain visual contact with the stricken jet and they immediately contacted the controller. One pilot radioed "that plane has just started to do a big huge plunge"; another reported, "Yes sir, ah, I concur he is, uh, definitely in a nose down, uh, position descending quite rapidly." ATC then tried to contact the plane. The crew of a Skywest airliner reported "He's, uh, definitely out of control". Although the CVR captured the co-pilot saying "mayday", no radio communications were received from the flight crew during the final event.:9
The CVR transcript reveals the pilots' continuous attempts for the duration of the dive to regain control of the aircraft.:9 At one point, unable to raise the nose, they attempted to fly the aircraft upside-down.:9 However, the aircraft was beyond recovery; it descended inverted and nose-down about 18,000 feet (5,500 m) in 81 seconds, a descent rate exceeding 13,300 per minute (151 mph; 243 km/h). Flight 261 impacted the Pacific Ocean at high speed between the coastal city of Port Hueneme, California and Anacapa Island, a few seconds before 16:22. At this time, pilots from aircraft flying in the same area reported in, with one SkyWest Airlines pilot saying, "and he's just hit the water". Another reported, "Yeah sir, he, uh, he, uh, hit the water, he's, uh, down." The aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces, and all occupants died from blunt force impact trauma.
Wreckage recovery and analysis
Using side-scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles, and a commercial fishing trawler, workers recovered about 85% of the fuselage (including the tail section) and a majority of the wings. In addition, both engines, as well as the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and CVR were retrieved. All wreckage was unloaded at Port Hueneme, California for examination and documentation. Both the horizontal stabilizer trim system jackscrew (also referred to as "acme screw"), and the corresponding acme nut, which the jackscrew turns through, were retrieved. As the jackscrew rotates it moves up or down through the (fixed) acme nut. This up and down motion moves the horizontal stabilizer for the trim system. The jackscrew was found with metallic filaments wrapped around it; these were later determined to be remnants of the threads from the acme nut.
Later analysis estimated that 90% of the threads in the acme nut had previously been worn away, and that they were then completely sheared off during the accident flight. Once the threads failed, the horizontal stabilizer assembly was then subject to aerodynamic forces that it could not withstand, and ultimately failed. Based on the time since the last inspection of the jackscrew assembly, the NTSB determined that the wear had occurred at a much faster than average rate (0.012 inches (0.30 mm) per 1,000 flight‑hours, when the expected wear was 0.001 inches (0.025 mm) per 1,000 flight‑hours). The NTSB considered a number of potential reasons for this excessive wear, including the substitution by Alaska Airlines (with the approval of the aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas) of Aeroshell 33 grease instead of the previously approved lubricant, Mobilgrease 28. The use of Aeroshell 33 was found not to be a factor in this accident. Insufficient lubrication of the components was also considered as a reason for the wear. Examination of the jackscrew and acme nut revealed that no effective lubrication was present on these components at the time of the accident. Ultimately, the lack of lubrication and resultant excessive wear of the acme nut threads were determined to be the direct causes of the accident.
Identification of passengers
Due to the severity of the impact and the destruction of the passenger cabin, very few bodies were found intact. All occupants were identified using fingerprints, dental records, tattoos, personal items, and anthropological examination.
Inadequate lubrication and end play checks
The investigation then proceeded to examine why scheduled maintenance had failed to adequately lubricate the jackscrew assembly. In interviews with the Alaska Airlines San Francisco International Airport (SFO) mechanic who last performed the lubrication it was revealed that the task took about one hour, whereas the aircraft manufacturer estimated the task should take four hours. This and other evidence suggested to the NTSB that "the SFO mechanic who was responsible for lubricating the jackscrew assembly in September 1999 did not adequately perform the task". Laboratory tests indicated that the excessive wear of jackscrew assembly could not have accumulated in just the four-month period between the September 1999 maintenance and the accident flight. Therefore, the NTSB concluded that "more than just the last lubrication was missed or inadequately performed".
A periodic maintenance inspection called an "end play check" was used to monitor wear on the jackscrew assembly. The NTSB examined why the last end play check on the accident aircraft in September 1997 did not uncover excessive wear. The investigation found that Alaska Airlines had fabricated tools to be used in the end play check that did not meet the manufacturer's requirements. Testing revealed that the non-standard tools ("restraining fixtures") used by Alaska Airlines could result in inaccurate measurements, and that it was possible that if accurate measurements had been obtained at the time of the last inspection, these measurements would have indicated the excessive wear and the need to replace the affected components.
Extension of maintenance intervals
Between 1985 and 1996, Alaska Airlines progressively increased the period in between both jackscrew lubrication and end play checks with the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Since each lubrication or end play check subsequently not conducted had represented an opportunity to adequately lubricate the jackscrew or detect excessive wear, the NTSB examined the justification of these extensions. In the case of extended lubrication intervals, the investigation could not determine what information, if any, was presented by Alaska Airlines to the FAA prior to 1996. Testimony from an FAA inspector regarding an extension granted in 1996 was that Alaska Airlines submitted documentation from McDonnell Douglas as justification for their extension.
End play checks were conducted during a periodic comprehensive airframe overhaul process called a C‑check. Testimony from the director of reliability and maintenance programs of Alaska Airlines was that a data analysis package based on the maintenance history of five sample aircraft was submitted to the FAA to justify the extended period between C-checks. Individual maintenance tasks (such as the end play check) were not separately considered in this extension. The NTSB found that "Alaska Airlines' end play check interval extension should have been, but was not, supported by adequate technical data to demonstrate that the extension would not present a potential hazard".
A special inspection conducted by the NTSB in April 2000 of Alaska Airlines uncovered widespread significant deficiencies that "the FAA should have uncovered earlier". The investigation concluded that "FAA surveillance of Alaska Airlines had been deficient for at least several years". The NTSB noted that in July 2001, an FAA panel determined that Alaska Airlines had corrected the previously identified deficiencies. However several factors led the Board to question "the depth and effectiveness of Alaska Airlines corrective actions" and "the overall adequacy of Alaska Airlines' maintenance program".
Systemic problems were identified by the investigation in the FAA's oversight of maintenance programs, including inadequate staffing, its approval process of maintenance interval extensions, and the aircraft certification requirements.
Aircraft design and certification issues
The jackscrew assembly was designed with two independent threads, each of which was strong enough to withstand the forces placed on it. Maintenance procedures such as lubrication and end play checks were to catch any excessive wear before it progressed to a point of failure of the system. The aircraft designers assumed that at least one set of threads would always be present to carry the loads placed on it, therefore the effects of catastrophic failure of this system were not considered, and no "fail-safe" provisions were needed.
For this design component to be approved ("certified") by the FAA without any fail-safe provision, a failure had to be considered "extremely improbable". This was defined as "having a probability on the order of or less each flight hour". However the accident showed that certain wear mechanisms could affect both sets of threads, and that the wear might not be detected. The NTSB determined that the design of "the horizontal stabilizer jackscrew assembly did not account for the loss of the acme nut threads as a catastrophic single-point failure mode".
Jackscrew design improvement
In 2001, NASA recognized the risk to its hardware (such as the Space Shuttle) attendant upon use of similar jackscrews. An engineering fix developed by engineers of NASA and United Space Alliance promises to make progressive failures easy to see and thus complete failures of a jackscrew less likely.
In 1998, an Alaska Airlines mechanic named John Liotine, who worked in the Oakland, California Alaska Airlines maintenance center, told the Federal Aviation Administration that supervisors were approving records of maintenance that they were not allowed to approve or that indicated work had been completed when the work had not been completed. Liotine began working with federal investigators by secretly audio recording his supervisors. On December 22, 1998 federal authorities raided an Alaska Airlines property and seized its records. In August 1999 Alaska Airlines put Liotine on paid leave, and in 2000 Liotine filed a libel suit against the airline. The crash of AS261 became a part of the federal investigation against Alaska Airlines because in 1997 Liotine had recommended that the jackscrew and gimbal nut of the aircraft involved in the accident be replaced. In December 2001 federal prosecutors stated that they were not going to file criminal charges against Alaska Airlines. Around that time Alaska Airlines agreed to settle the libel suit by paying about $500,000; as part of the settlement. Liotine resigned.
In addition to the probable cause, the NTSB found the following contributing factors:
- Alaska Airlines' extension of its lubrication interval for its McDonnell Douglas MD-80 horizontal stabilizer components, and the FAA's approval of that extension, the last of which was based on McDonnell Douglas's extension of the recommended lubrication interval increased the likelihood that a missed or inadequate lubrication would result in excessive wear of jackscrew assembly acme nut threads and, therefore, was a direct cause of the excessive wear and contributed to the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 accident.
- Alaska Airlines's extended end play check interval and the FAA's approval of that extension, which allowed the excessive wear of the acme nut threads to progress to failure without the opportunity for detection
- The absence on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 of a fail-safe mechanism to prevent the catastrophic effects of total acme nut loss
During the course of the investigation, and later in its final report, the NTSB issued 24 safety recommendations, covering maintenance, regulatory oversight, and aircraft design issues. More than half of these were directly related to jackscrew lubrication and end play measurement. Also included was a recommendation that pilots were to be instructed that in the event of a flight control system malfunction they should not attempt corrective procedures beyond those specified in the checklist procedures, and in particular in the event of a horizontal stabilizer trim control system malfunction the primary and alternate trim motors should not be activated, and if unable to correct the problem through the checklists they should land at the nearest suitable airport.
In NTSB board member John J. Goglia's statement for the final report, which was concurred with by the other three board members, he wrote:
"This is a maintenance accident. Alaska Airlines' maintenance and inspection of its horizontal stabilizer activation system was poorly conceived and woefully executed. The failure was compounded by poor oversight...Had any of the managers, mechanics, inspectors, supervisors or FAA overseers whose job it was to protect this mechanism done their job conscientiously, this accident cannot happen...NTSB has made several specific maintenance recommendations, some already accomplished, that will, if followed, prevent the recurrence of this particular accident. But maintenance, poorly done, will find a way to bite somewhere else.":188–189
After the crash, Alaska Airlines management said that it hoped to handle the aftermath in a manner similar to that done by Swissair after the Swissair Flight 111 accident, as opposed to the manner that TWA handled the aftermath of TWA Flight 800; in other words, to provide timely information and compassion to the families of victims.
The families of the victims approved the construction of a memorial sundial that was placed at Port Hueneme. The crash site is located, 14 miles offshore, between the mainland at Port Hueneme and Anacapa Island. The names of each of the victims are engraved on individual bronze plates mounted on the perimeter of the dial.  The sundial was designed by Santa Barbara artist James "Bud" Bottoms to cast a shadow on a memorial plaque at 16:22 each January 31.
For their actions during the emergency, Captain Ted Thompson and First Officer Bill Tansky were awarded the Air Line Pilots Association Gold Medal for Heroism, the only time the award has been given posthumously.
Both McDonnell Douglas and Alaska Airlines eventually conceded liability for the crash, and all but one of the lawsuits brought by surviving family members were settled out of court before going to trial. Candy Hatcher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said, "Many lost faith in Alaska Airlines, a homegrown company that had taken pride in its safety record and billed itself as a family airline."
Two victims were falsely named in paternity suits as the fathers of children in Guatemala in an attempt to gain insurance and settlement money. DNA testing revealed these claims to be false.
The Ted Thompson/Bill Tansky Scholarship Fund was named after the two cockpit flight crew members.
Many residents of the City of Seattle had been affected by the disaster. As part of a memorial vigil in the year 2000, a column of light was beamed from the top of the Space Needle. Students and faculty at the John Hay Elementary School in Queen Anne, Seattle held a memorial for four Hay students who died in the crash. In April 2001, John Hay Elementary dedicated the "John Hay Pathway Garden" as a permanent memorial to these students and their families. The City of Seattle public park Soundview Terrace was renovated in honor of the four Pearson and six Clemetson family members who were all Flight 261 victims from the same Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne. The park's playground was named "Rachel's Playground" in honor of six-year-old Rachel Pearson, who often played at the park.
The crash has appeared in various advance fee fraud ("419") email scams. In these scams, a scammer uses the name of someone who died in the crash to lure unsuspecting victims into sending money to the scammer by claiming the crash victim left huge amounts of unclaimed money in a foreign bank account. The names of Morris Thompson and Ronald and Joyce Lake were used in schemes unrelated to them.
As of November 2011, Flight 261 no longer exists. The flight route designation for this route is now Flight 221. Alaska Airlines continues to operate the Puerto Vallarta-San Francisco-Seattle/Tacoma route, and also operates the Puerto Vallarta-Seattle/Tacoma route nonstop as Flight 203. The airline retired the last of its MD-80s in 2008 and now operates all Boeing 737 aircraft.
- Jean Gandesbery, author of Seven Mile Lake, died with her husband Robert Gandesbery.
- Morris Thompson, Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1973 to 1976, died with his wife Thelma and daughter Sheryl.
- Tom Stockley, wine columnist for The Seattle Times.
- Cynthia Oti, a financial talk show host at San Francisco's KSFO-AM.
In popular culture
In 2004, Flight 261 was featured in an episode of Discovery Channel (Canada)'s Mayday television program (also known as Air Emergency in the United States and known as Air Crash Investigation elsewhere), titled Cutting Corners or Fatal Error.
In 2012, the film drama Flight, directed and co-produced by Robert Zemeckis, featured an airplane crash of a craft resembling an MD-83 which flies inverted and ultimately lands, though the film's version recorded just six fatalities (four passengers, two crew) of the 102 persons aboard. In the film, NTSB investigators determine the probable cause of this crash was the fatigue of a jackscrew due to excess wear and poor maintenance. Screenwriter John Gatins later explained the film's featured crash was "loosely inspired" by the events of Flight 261.
- F-111 - Also had horizontal stabilizer failure during service entry
- "Aircraft Accident Report, Loss of Control and Impact with Pacific Ocean Alaska Airlines Flight 261 McDonnell Douglas MD-83, N963AS About 2.7 Miles [4.3 km] North of Anacapa Island, California, January 31, 2000" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. December 30, 2002. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- "Alaska Airlines Flight 261: Searchers Hold Out Hope for Possible Survivors; Crash Takes Heavy Toll on Airlines Employees' Families." CNN International. February 1, 2000. Retrieved February 16, 2010. "This is 1995 video of the plane. The MD-83 was manufactured in 1992 and had more than 26,000 of hours in flight."
- "HistoryLink Essay: Alaska Flight 261 bound for Seattle crashes into the Pacific Ocean on 31 January 2000." HistoryLink. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
- "Flight 261 Special Report." Alaska Airlines. February 12, 2001. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
- Hatcher, Candy. "The anger and the grief linger one year later." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Wednesday January 31, 2001. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Verhovek, Sam Howe. "Fate Leads An Airline To Grieve For Itself." The New York Times. February 2, 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Holmes, Stanley and Jeff Leeds. "THE CRASH OF FLIGHT 261; For Airline, Loss Feels Like Deaths in Family." Los Angeles Times. February 20, 2000. A23. Retrieved December 14, 2009.
- "Transcript of Proceedings: Abstract of Aviation Accident Report: Alaska Airlines Flight 261, MD‑83, N963AS, Pacific Ocean about 2.7 Miles [4.3 km] North of Anacapa Island, California, January 31, 2000, NTSB/AAR‑02/01" (PDF). Washington, DC: National Transportation Safety Board. December 10, 2002. pp. 1–292. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 4, 2011.
- Aviation Safety Network > Accident investigation > CVR / FDR > Transcripts > Alaska Airlines Flight 261 - 31 JAN 2000
- Dekker, Sidney W. A. (2011). "Systems Thinking 1.0 and Systems Thinking 2.0: Complexity science and a new conception of "cause"" (PDF). Aviation in Focus (Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul) 2 (2): 21–39. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- "Alaska Airlines maintenance records raise new questions." CNN. February 14, 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
- The FailSafe Jackscrew Design
- "No criminal charges against Alaska; airline settles with whistle-blower" (Archive). The Seattle Times. Thursday December 20, 2001. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
- "Whistle-Blower Sues Alaska Airlines." Associated Press at the Los Angeles Times. September 24, 2000. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
- Song, Kyung M. "Alaska Airlines copes with 'saddest, most tragic day'." The Seattle Times. Wednesday, February 2, 2000. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- "Port Hueneme, CA - Official Website - Alaska Air Flight 261 Memorial Sundial". www.ci.port-hueneme.ca.us. Port Hueneme, CA. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- Denn, Rebekah. "Memorials quieter today, but Flight 261 grief still hurts." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Thursday, January 31, 2002. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Porterfield, Elaine and Hector Castro. "Pilots honored for heroism during crisis." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Thursday, February 1, 2001. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Kravets, David. "All but one suit settled in Flight 261 crash." Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Friday, July 4, 2003. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- Hatcher, Candy. "Quest for truth proves lawyer's integrity." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Wednesday, August 22, 2001. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- "Ted Thompson/Bill Tansky Scholarship Fund." Alaska Airlines. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Jamieson, Robert L. "Seattle still struggling to make sense of the Flight 261 tragedy." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Tuesday, February 8, 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Harrell, Debera Carlton. "Hay school family' remembers its own." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Friday, February 11, 2001. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- Official John Hay Elementary Web Site. "." Retrieved on November 15, 2010.
- Denn, Rebekah. "A park from Rachel, with love." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Wednesday, January 31, 2001.
- "Nigerian Advance Fee Scam Customized for Alaska: Morris Thompson variation could be taste of ploys to come." State of Alaska Department of Law. December 13, 2005. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- Le, Phuong Cat. "Latest e-mail uses Alaska Airlines crash victims to scam." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. November 9, 2007. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- "Seven Mile Lake (Hardcover)." Amazon.com. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
- "Names of those aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261." CNN. February 4, 2000. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- "The Lives That Were Lost." CBS News. 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Horn, John (October 21, 2012). "How the movie 'Flight' became airborne". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alaska Airlines Flight 261.|
|airliners.net's Photo gallery of N963AS|
- Archive of Alaska Airlines news reports about 261
- Cockpit voice recorder transcript and accident summary
- Families of Alaska Airlines Flight 261
- "Navy expands search for debris at Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash scene", United States Navy
- Applying Lessons Learned from Accidents, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 - Informative analysis at faa.gov, with technical diagrams and photos
- Federal Aviation Administration - Lessons Learned Home: Alaska Airlines Flight 261
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer special report