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FAA simulates fire aboard ValuJet 592 Everglades crash

Blaze may have destroyed flight control cables

November 8, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A simulation of the cargo hold fire that sent ValuJet Flight 592 plummeting into the Everglades May 11 suggests the blaze destroyed flight control cables, which could have made it impossible to steer, sources close to the investigation tells CNN.

The DC-9 crashed shortly after takeoff on a Miami to Atlanta flight, killing all 110 people aboard.

Simulated tests using a cargo bay from a scrap jetliner similar to the DC-9 were completed Thursday at a Federal Aviation Administration technical center in Egg Harbor Township. N.J.

Investigators believe oxygen canisters in the front cargo hold, below the cockpit, were improperly packed and wrongly marked "empty" when they were not. Six minutes after takeoff, fire erupted in the cargo bay. Smoke and flames raced through the aircraft and, moments later, it nosedived into the Everglades.

In this week's test, examiners set ablaze five boxes containing about 250 oxygen canisters swathed in bubble wrapper to determine how long it would take the fire to spread. They also burned three inflated tires similar to those stored in the cargo bay.

A source told CNN Thursday the fire was so hot -- well over 1,000 degrees -- and spread so fast there was nothing the pilots could do.

The source said the flames destroyed steering cables that run the length of the aircraft from below the cockpit and below the floor of the passenger cabin. The cables help control the plane's movement.

The plane's flight crew was aware there was fire in the cabin but could do nothing to stop the dive.


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