The speed and efficiency of the investigation that has taken place since Alaska Airlines flight 261 spiraled into the Pacific Ocean on January 31 should make white-knuckle fliers feel a little safer. "This is a great aspect of U.S. civil aviation," says TIME Washington correspondent Mark Thompson. "Day one you have an accident, and day 10 you have an MD-80-series airworthiness directive." On Thursday the FAA ordered an "urgent airworthiness directive" for all 1,100 MD-80-series jets similar to the one that went down en route from Mexico to San Francisco. The move follows a deep-ocean search effort that pulled damaged pieces of the MD-83's horizontal stabilizer, known as a jackscrew, from the water and the discovery, during voluntary inspections of the rest of Alaska Airlines' MD-80s, of similar problems on several planes.
While truly anxiety-prone passengers may find little solace in the FAA's efficiency in the wake of the latest air disaster, at least they can take comfort in one trend. "There's no thread between this and other recent accidents," says Thompson. "Each accident is unique, and when there is a snafu with faulty mechanics, it's fixed pretty quickly."