ValuJet officials defended the company’s safety record Sunday and dismissed speculation that inadequate maintenance or the airplane’s age contributed to the airline’s first fatal crash.
“If we pick your favorite airline and pull out every record and went through it with a fine-tooth comb, you would find a list of discrepancies,” ValuJet President Lewis Jordan told reporters.
However, Elizabeth A. Marchak - a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who conducted a monthslong investigation of ValuJet’s safety record - reported that the airline’s accident and incident rate was at least four times higher than the bigthree major U.S. airlines - United, American and Delta.
The Plain Dealer investigation found that since the airline started flying in late 1993, it has had eight inflight engine shutdowns, 13 flights with various problems going back to airports, two flights with engine problems being diverted to other airports, 16 cabin-pressure problems and four unlatched exits.
Jordan insisted, however, there is no indication that anything in ValuJet’s operating style or in the history of the 27-year-old DC-9 that crashed Saturday had contributed to the crash.
He said ValuJet is saddened by the crash, which killed all 109 people aboard.
“It’s Mother’s Day weekend - we know that,” Jordan said. “Words in the English language - at least the ones I know - are inadequate to express the amount of grief and sadness we feel at ValuJet.”
While Federal Aviation Administration records show that the plane that crashed had been called back to airports a relatively high seven times in the past two years, Jordan said all of the incidents appear to have been minor - and unrelated to the crash.
FAA officials seemed to concur. “Yes, the airline is safe. I would fly on it. It meets our standards,” FAA Administrator David R. Hinson said Sunday.