ValuJet used damaged jets and green help, FAA says Special inspection lists 34 serious violations after crash that killed 110


WASHINGTON -- Before and after the May 11 ValuJet Airlines crash in the Florida Everglades, the carrier's fleet of planes flew with damaged engines, leaking hydraulic systems and weather radar that didn't work, government documents show.

Mechanics working on ValuJet planes sometimes were making their first-ever repairs to parts without supervision and in some cases were unfamiliar with the systems they were working on.

The problems were among 34 serious safety violations discovered by the FAA in special inspections of ValuJet that date back almost a year. They were detailed in the first comprehensive report on the bargain carrier, in documents released yesterday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

ValuJet was grounded by the FAA on Monday, and the FAA's chief safety officer resigned Tuesday. ValuJet will not be permitted to resume operations until it gives the government a comprehensive plan for correcting what FAA Administrator David Hinson called "serious deficiencies" in its maintenance and training programs.

The extent of the airline's problems was detailed in an attachment to the agreement between the FAA and ValuJet, under which the carrier promised to pay the government $2 million to defray the costs of the special probes.

Under the agreement, called a consent order, ValuJet and the FAA stipulate that the airline is not admitting to the violations, nor is the payment a punishment for violations.

In fact, the door is still open for further possible sanctions against the airline.

The violations listed by the FAA paint a picture of a troubled and disorganized maintenance operation that allowed potentially serious problems to go unnoticed.

One ValuJet DC-9 with a hole in its engine cowling flew eight times before being repaired. Such a holecould have made extinguishing an engine fire more difficult, the FAA said.

A different DC-9 flew seven flights with a leaking hydraulic system, which controls critical aircraft components that keep a plane in the air. The leak should have been easy to spot: Fluid was floating in the face of the hydraulic pressure gauge.

Another DC-9 apparently had no weather radar system, or one that operated infrequently, for more than nine months, according to FAA findings.

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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