AirTran expects good safety report from FAA
The FAA found that rudders on DC-9's were not properly
reinstalled after being painted
The former ValuJet denies serious violations
January 13, 1998
Web posted at: 10:49 a.m. EST (1549 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- AirTran, the airline formerly known as ValuJet, on Tuesday disputed a newspaper report that federal investigators had found serious safety violations. A preliminary safety report by FAA investigators listed at least six problems, but they are not as serious as they first seemed, the airline said Monday.
The FAA had no comment pending the release of its final report. But FAA officials told CNN that if the agency had any serious concerns it would have already taken action against the airline.
AirTran is demanding a retraction from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, charging the newspaper was wrong in a Sunday article that alleged the airline's safety problems were worse now than in February 1996, when Federal Aviation Administration inspectors recommended grounding its aircraft.
The findings were in internal Federal Aviation Administration documents obtained by the newspaper. The article was based on a preliminary report, meaning the FAA's findings were not final.
The Plain Dealer said violations found at AirTran during a three-week inspection that ended
November 7 included falsified documents, improper maintenance, faulty repairs and repeated failures to supervise contractors.
ValuJet endured intense scrutiny after the May 1996
crash of Flight 592
Airline says most problems dismissed
According to AirTran, however, further investigation dismissed all but one of the problems cited in the article.
In that one case, the airline acknowledges that rudders were not properly installed on DC-9 aircraft after being painted. But AirTran insists passengers were never in danger from the mistake, which it says was corrected within four days.
AirTran also says the company contracted to do the painting apparently made the same mistake on other DC-9s flown by other airlines. In those cases, the mistake is also being corrected, AirTran said.
The FAA would not comment on the inspection beyond confirming that it had taken place and a final report was due later this month.
However, FAA sources say most of the issues raised in the preliminary report will be eliminated in the final report.
"We operate a very safe airline," AirTran President D. Joseph Corr said on Monday. "We've asked The Plain Dealer to retract this article pending the FAA's issuance of their final report."
AirTran changed its name from ValuJet last year. In May 1996, a ValuJet DC-9 plunged into the Florida Everglades shortly after takeoff from Miami International Airport, killing all 110 people on board.
A cargo fire on the doomed flight was blamed on parts with falsified maintenance records.
Correspondent Carl Rochelle contributed to this report.