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SabreTech to close Miami facility

canister

ValuJet crash blamed

January 9, 1997
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EST

MIAMI (CNN) -- SabreTech, the aircraft maintenance company whose employees loaded mislabeled oxygen-generating canisters aboard ill-fated ValuJet Flight 592, is closing its Miami facility.

"This is a direct result of the ValuJet crash," SabreTech's Washington-based attorney Kenneth Quinn told CNN. "It really drove customers away permanently."

The plane crashed in the Florida Everglades last May, killing all 110 people aboard.

SabreTech, which performed maintenance on ValuJet planes, has been blamed for improperly labeling and packaging the oxygen generators. The generators, mislabeled as empty, actually contained oxygen-making chemicals and were missing safety caps. They are suspected of causing the fire that crippled the DC-9.

SabreTech had been a contractor for ValuJet and removed the canisters from jets it was refurbishing for the discount air carrier. ValuJet fired the company after the crash.

Before the accident, SabreTech had 650 Miami-based employees. Since the crash, as business dried up, only 135 employees remained.

Miami assets may be sold

"It's a sad and tragic chapter to the ValuJet crash. (Because of) unrelenting adverse publicity and unprecedented investigations, we could not maintain a viable presence in Miami," Quinn told CNN.

SabreTech hopes to announce as early as Friday that it is selling its Miami assets. Quinn would not identify the buyer, but said company officials have been talking with a number of potential buyers over the past several weeks.

He said SabreTech plans to continue to operate an avionics operation under the SabreTech name in Miami.

The Phoenix-based company will continue to run a newly opened facility in Orlando. It has other maintenance operations in Amarillo and Phoenix. Quinn said the adverse publicity has not hurt the company's ability to work in Orlando.

Quinn said SabreTech is trying to find jobs for its 135 Miami employees at its other locations, in addition to transferring their jobs to the new buyer.

SabreTech probe under way

On Thursday, SabreTech formally advised the Federal Aviation Administration that it is voluntarily surrendering its repair station certificate for the Miami operation by next Wednesday.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the FAA did not request the surrender. She said SabreTech's Orlando facility is the focus of an investigation that began about three months ago. The probe involves the alleged repair of an airplane part that was supposed to be replaced.

SabreTech whistle-blowers complained that in November, a bent pressure probe from a jet was straightened and reinstalled instead of being replaced as required by Boeing, the plane's manufacturer.

 
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