Fire aboard ValuJet 592 to be re-created Investigators seek answer to crash that killed 110

November 06, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Hoping to learn how fire doomed ValuJet Flight 592, federal investigators will re-create a raging blaze in another airplane's cargo bay today and tomorrow.

They will load cardboard boxes of oxygen-generating canisters and some inflated tires into the mock-up, the items that were in Flight 592's forward cargo hold.

Then, some of the oxygen canisters, which can heat up to 500 degrees, will be activated.

They are suspected of either starting or feeding Flight 592's fire.

Under a different scenario, cargo bay items will be set aflame.

The results will be videotaped and presented at a National Transportation Safety Board's hearing into the crash, which begins Nov. 18 in Miami.

"We want to know how a fire might start, how long it would take it to grow, how hot it would get," NTSB spokesman Alan Pollock said.

The fire tests will be conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., the government's largest enclosed fire-test center.

Through the tests, investigators hope to map out a time line of when the fire may have started and how it progressed.

In this way, they may gain insight into the disaster's most confounding mysteries.

For instance, investigators want to know whether the fire caused a tire to explode in Flight 592's cargo hold, creating a sound loud enough for the pilots to hear in the cockpit.

After the pilots heard an unidentified sound, they decided to head back, according to the cockpit's voice recorder.

Seconds later, First Officer Richard Hazen reported smoke in the cockpit and cabin.

Investigators also want to know what effect fire had on the plane's structure and systems.

If, for example, the control cables were burned and jammed, the plane might have been locked into its final dive.

Flight 592 took off May 11 from Miami International Airport, bound for Atlanta.

The twin-engine jet plunged into the Everglades, killing all 110 people aboard.

The FAA has already conducted numerous fire tests with oxygen-generating canisters.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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