FAA director defends ValuJet inspections
May 14, 1996
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Carl Rochelle
Washington (CNN) -- Federal Aviation Administration chief David Hinson defended his agency's handling of inspections of ValuJet airlines Tuesday before a Senate committee.
He said the FAA initiated a 120-day Special Emphasis Review of the airline February 22, because of ValuJet's explosive growth and because of four safety-related incidents in January and February of this year.
During the inspection period, Hinson said they also did a separate focused inspection during which 11 inspectors spent a week "fine tooth combing" the airline.
Hinson said nothing was found that would disqualify the airline, but there were areas that needed improving. He said ValuJet officials were cooperative.
Among the findings were a need for improved training in cockpit resource management, or training crews to work as a team. Hinson says ValuJet has an approved CRM training program in place. An intensified review will look at how well the program is working.
That review also will evaluate the practice of using outside contractors to perform many maintenance functions. The contract maintenance will be checked for "quality assurance" as will maintenance performed by ValuJet employees.
A March 15 memo prepared by the FAA's Atlanta office for National Transportation Safety Board officials indicated there were several safety problems with ValuJet that were causing concern. ValuJet is based in Atlanta.
Among the problems were the experience levels of new ValuJet pilots. Hinson said FAA personnel determined that because many of the pilots hired by ValuJet were former Eastern Airlines pilots with considerable experience, some new hires appeared relatively inexperienced.
Hinson said all ValuJet pilots meet FAA requirements and pointed out that both the pilot and copilot of the DC-9 that crashed had substantial flight experience.
Other concerns mentioned were changes in key management personnel, dispatch procedures and the four safety incidents.
Hinson said since the memo was written, ValuJet had taken a number of steps. Those include replacing management personnel, hiring more auditors in the maintenance program and setting up two maintenance technical teams, one in Atlanta and a second at Dulles International Airport.
Hinson said the airline also had hired an experienced senior flight dispatcher.
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