Valujet hearings open today clashes expected

Airline, contractor blame each other for crash


WASHINGTON -- Top executives of Valujet Airlines and Sabretech, the two companies that blame each other for the crash of a Valujet DC-9 in the Everglades in May, will testify this week at hearings by the National Transportation Safety Board that are expected to be far more confrontational than most plane crash inquiries.

The hearings, which are to begin in Miami today and are expected to run all week, will closely examine two segments of the aviation industry -- start-up airlines such as Valujet and outside maintenance contractors like Sabretech -- those involved say.

They are also intended to shed light on problems in the Federal Aviation Administration.

That agency has acknowledged that at the time of the crash it was not dealing well with changes in the aviation industry, including airlines "outsourcing" maintenance to other companies, which by some estimates accounts for about a third of such work.

Lewis H. Jordan, the president of Valujet Inc., Valujet Airlines' holding company, and Steven Townes, the president of Sabretech, a subsidiary of Sabreliner Corp., will testify separately, giving their views of the events surrounding the crash May 11.

The plane, which had just taken off from Miami International bTC Airport for Atlanta, caught fire and plunged into swampland, killing all 110 people on board. Oxygen generators that were stored in a cargo hold are suspected of causing the fire.

The hearing will include a videotape of tests performed by the safety board that show oxygen generators, which are used on some jetliners to supply emergency oxygen, bursting into flames.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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