ValuJet crash prompts shakeup at FAA

FAA / Valujet

Grounded airline dismisses employees,
vows comeback

June 18, 1996
Web posted at: 7:10 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the wake of the ValuJet crash, the Clinton administration will ask Congress to limit the mandate of the Federal Aviation Administration to safety, eliminating its role as cheerleader for the airline industry.

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"The FAA looked itself in the mirror," U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena said during a news conference Tuesday. "It found that organizational and management changes were needed."

Those changes will include the replacement of the FAA's top enforcement official, Anthony Broderick, associate administrator for regulation and certification. The changes were announced on the same day the FAA grounded ValuJet airlines, a move the airline's president said has put 4,000 employees out of work.

Pena said he wanted to redefine the mission of the FAA so that there would be no questions concerning the agency's priorities.

After the May 11 ValuJet crash Pena assured the public ValuJet was a safe airline. In light of the decision to ground ValuJet, critics questioned whether the agency had reason to question the airline's safety procedures before the crash and whether it put those concerns top on its list of priorities.


"I am urging that Congress change the FAA charter to give it a single, primary mission, safety and only safety," Pena said. He said this would be the most fundamental of a number of changes the administration was making to increase safety.

FAA Administrator David Hinson praised the departing Broderick's "distinguished service" at a Washington news conference carried live on CNN and said Broderick had decided to retire early and hand his office over to a new manager.

Asked if he too should step down because of the ValuJet crash, Hinson replied, "I work at the pleasure of the president. If he thinks I am not doing a good job, he will tell me very quickly."

Darryl Jenkins, who teaches airline management at George Washington University, said Tuesday that firing Broderick was the wrong move.

"The FAA is doing the worst possible thing in the world right now, firing a long-term public servant. They're going to lull people into thinking this was caused by a person, which it was not."

FAA cites 'lessons learned'

Hinson also announced a tightening of FAA inspection rules, calling them "lessons learned" from the ValuJet crash.

The changes, effective immediately, were designed to ensure that repairs and general maintenance by airlines and their outside contractors are more frequently and rigorously reviewed.

Hinson acknowledged that the FAA did not accurately judge the airworthiness of ValuJet before the crash. He said the new regulations are "an acknowledgment that we need to do it differently and in some cases more efficiently. Yes, we bear some responsibilities in this case."

Some 4,000 ValuJet employees jobless

Lewis Jordan, president of ValuJet, said nearly all 4,000 of the low-cost carrier's employees would be laid off because of the FAA's decision to ground the airline. He said he hopes the carrier will be back in business in 30 days but a final decision is out of his hands.

Jordan quote

"We would not have chosen to be grounded as of today if everything had gone our way, but everything has not gone our way for quite some time, and we will work back from this," he said, wearing his trademark ValuJet polo shirt and khakis at a news conference in Atlanta.

Jordan said the FAA's decision to ground ValuJet was "unfair" because he was not given the chance to review the data that the FAA had compiled in the days following the Everglades crash of flight 592, which killed all 110 on board.

Jordan also defended ValuJet's safety practices and vowed that the three-year-old airline would make a comeback. (102K AIFF or WAV sound)

"As every day unfolds and as the NTSB continues its investigation it becomes more and more and more clear that this is an accident that could have happened to any airline in the world and that ValuJet airlines is also a victim and ValuJet people are victims."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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