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ValuJet wins back its wings

Valujet

Airline could be in air in a week

August 29, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal regulators announced Thursday afternoon tentative approval for ValuJet Airlines to resume operations.

The FAA has returned ValuJet's air carrier operating certificate, which gives ValuJet permission to resume flights contingent on final approval from the Department of Transportation.

The Department of Transportation also tentatively ruled that ValuJet's management is fit to resume flight operations and the airline is economically fit to fly.

Jordan

At a Thursday news conference announcing the move, ValuJet CEO Lewis Jordan asked for a moment of silence to remember victims of a May 11 ValuJet crash. But overall, the mood of his conference was upbeat. "Congratulations to all ValuJet people for all of your hard work," Jordan told the gathering.

As he read the FAA and DOT statements, people attending the conference broke into applause several times. Jordan said he expected to bring back 134 furloughed employees "very soon."

The airline will not be able to return to the air immediately. The DOT order specifies a waiting period of seven calendar days. If objections to ValuJet's reinstatement are filed with DOT during that "show cause" period, the airline could be blocked from returning to the skies.

Tail

As a condition of its return, FAA officials said, the airline will operate a substantially smaller fleet of aircraft. The airline had 51 planes in operation when it was grounded but will return to operation with only nine. It may add an additional six airplanes in the next few days.

Jordan said he was not disappointed to be returning with a smaller fleet. "We just went from zero to 15 and that's pretty good," he said.

The FAA said with a smaller fleet, it would be easier to monitor ValuJet's managerial capabilities and compliance with safety rules.

ValuJet, according to the FAA, demonstrated that it is in compliance with a consent order issued when it was grounded June 18. Bill White, the FAA's deputy director of flight standards services, said that meant that ValuJet had taken a number of steps required by the FAA, including reducing the number of outside maintenance contractors.

ValuJet conducted complete evaluations and safety checks on each of its aircraft before returning them to service, and retrained all its pilots, instructors, and check airmen.

In recent weeks, the Association of Flight Attendants has filed objections claiming that ValuJet's president and chairman were unfit to run the airline. White said the flight attendants' objections had been "carefully considered" in deciding to let ValuJet resume its flight operations. The flight attendants' union may file new objections in the coming week.

"We expect a lot of opposition, we expect a lot of comments coming in during the show cause order comment period, we will deal with every one of those, I will tell you having read what the DOT has done today, they have gone a long way, their preliminary findings have been very positive for ValuJet," Jordan said.

Crash site

The FAA grounded ValuJet on June 18, following an intensive FAA safety inspection triggered a month earlier by the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. All 110 people aboard the plane died in the May 11 mishap.

Investigation into the crash indicated that an intense fire on board the plane contributed to its crash. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but it is suspected that oxygen canisters carried as cargo aboard the plane contributed to the fire's intensity.

The oxygen containers had been loaded into the forward cargo compartment of the plane by SabreTech, an outside contractor.

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