What Really Brought Down Flight 592?
(c) 2003 Mark E. J. Fay
Within days of ValuJet Flight 592's May 11, 1996, disaster, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did
some very unusual things. Those things, and others, lead me to believe that: The oxygen generators did not start the fire;
An unapproved part started the fire, and; The FAA conspired to cover up this information.
ValuJet Flight 592, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, crashed near Miami and claimed 110 lives. The National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB), in accident report #DCA96MA054, stated that fire was initiated by one or more oxygen generators loaded
in the forward cargo compartment. The report implies that the loose-load oxygen generators, without safety caps installed,
actuated from being jostled around. The oxygen generators undoubtedly intensified the fire, but consider the possibility that
the oxygen generators did not start the fire.
There is evidence strongly suggesting the FAA, immediately after the accident, suspected a different ignition
source and took steps to cover it up, or at least reduce the impact if that different source were to become known.
A day or two after the accident, the deputy director of Douglas Aircraft Company's spares division gave an
assignment to a staff specialist. The deputy director told the specialist that the FAA, on or about May 12, 1996, had asked
American Airlines personnel at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) how they procured primary longitudinal trim relays, part number
9207-10296, used on DC-9-32 airplanes.
American Airlines was a maintenance contractor to ValuJet at DFW. Under Federal Law, that particular aircraft
replacement part, at that time, could be sold for installation on a DC-9-32 only by Douglas Aircraft Company. Records showed
that Douglas Aircraft Company had never sold that part number. The deputy director instructed the specialist to help the relay
manufacturer, Leach International, convince the FAA the relay sold to the airline was essentially identical to the relay Douglas
Aircraft Company installed on new aircraft at production. In their discussion, Leach informed the specialist there was an
FAA mandated maintenance action, an Airworthiness Directive (AD), applicable to the relay.
Airworthiness Directive AD 91-21-07 (and Douglas Aircraft Company Alert Service Bulletin A27-316, dated January
4, 1991, incorporated into law by reference in the AD) applied to the ill-fated DC-9-32. The AD states, "To eliminate overheating
of the primary longitudinal trim relays and the possibility of fire in the forward cargo compartment, accomplish the following."
The requirement was to replace the relays prior to the accumulation of 8,000 flight hours, and thereafter
at intervals not to exceed 8,000 flight hours. Flight 592 had 68,400.7 total flight hours at the time of the accident according
to the accident report. Were the relays replaced within the period mandated? Even if the relays were replaced as required,
could one "overheat" in less than 8,000 hours?
The Alert Service Bulletin was even more damning. Its Reason paragraph states, "Four operators reported six
instances of overheat failure of the primary longitudinal trim contactors (relays). Contactor failures have resulted in smoke
and burning behind the right side cargo liner at the forward side of the forward cargo door. In some instances smoke was reported
in the main passenger cabin." The Reason statement ends, "In one case an intercostal (metal aircraft structure) was
damaged and required replacement." Parentheses are mine.
Leach also told the specialist the FAA was pushing Leach, immediately after the accident, to obtain FAA Parts
Manufacturer Approval (PMA) on the relay. With PMA Leach could legally sell the relay directly to airlines. Leach obtained
PMA May 29, 1996 (Ref. PMA No. PQ2059NM, dated May 29, 1996). The FAA granted PMA based on a licensing agreement betweeen
Leach and Douglas Aircraft Company dated May 22, 1996.
Obtaining PMA within 18 days of the accident was a minor miracle. It was especially noteworthy because Douglas
provided the PMA assistance (license) within 10 working days of the accident, a process that ordinarily took months. And,
the FAA granted PMA within three working days of Leach's application.
I can vouch for these things because I was the Douglas Aircraft Company spares specialist. If the primary
longitudinal trim relay did not ignite the oxygen generators, why did the FAA focus on ensuring that that specific part number
relay received FAA-PMA virtually instantaneously after the crash? There are other relay part numbers in the AD, but the only
part number the FAA pushed Leach to apply for PMA was 9207-10296 - the part number of the relays installed in the doomed
A cursory understanding of the worldwide aircraft replacement parts business is needed to understand the import
of the foregoing. There is a relatively constant annual turnover of $10B in that business. Unapproved, bogus, or illegal parts
comprise several billion dollars, or more, of that annual trade. The FAA has been struggling for years to control it. The
last thing the FAA needed was for 110 deaths to be attributed to an unapproved part. By ensuring Leach obtained PMA on the
part, the FAA anticipated the question, if it were asked, "Is the primary longitudinal trim relay FAA approved?" The FAA could
truthfully respond, "Yes it is." Only a skeptic would rephrase the question, "Was the relay FAA approved at the time of the
There was a powerful champion in the crusade to eliminate unapproved aircraft parts. The FAA's parent organization
is the Cabinet level Department of Transportation (DOT). The Inspector General of DOT when 592 crashed was the young, ambitious,
and zealous Mary Schiavo.
She was outspoken. She declared that virtually all airplanes were flying with bogus parts installed. She and
her team prosecuted numerous cases involving unapproved parts. Millions of dollars in fines and years of incarceration were
meted out to unapproved parts miscreants under her leadership.
One of her reports quotes a convicted illegal drug dealer as saying, "I quit dealing in illegal drugs and
got into the illegal aircraft parts business because there's more money to be made and you meet a better class of people,"
or words to that effect. She cited problems at ValuJet months before the accident, and refused to fly them for safety reasons.
She spoke out about the FAA's failings. Ms. Schiavo left government service and "resigned" her post just shy
of two months after the crash of Flight 592. Even though she stated no one pressured her to resign, the FAA must have been
greatly relieved she was no longer liable to investigate a certain unapproved part.
Additional reasons to suspect the relays started fire aboard Flight 592 include the following.
*The NTSB assumes the oxygen generators actuated as they rolled around
the cargo compartment when the firing pins struck the percussion caps. Tests at Douglas Aircraft Company facilities in Southern
California failed to prove the oxygen generators could self-actuate. With great difficulty, and under conditions unlikely
to be encountered in flight, the oxygen generators eventually actuated, according to a colleague who participated. Those tests
are not cited in the NTSB report.
*Did the primary longitudinal trim relay generate sufficient heat to
actuate the oxygen generators? If not directly, did they ignite passenger cargo in the forward cargo compartment, which in
turn ignited the oxygen generators?
*The report speculates that the flight crew attempted to reduce thrust
on both engines for emergency descent. The right engine went to flight idle about six minutes into the flight. The left engine
did not respond to inputs to reduce thrust, resulting in asymmetric thrust.
There were no right roll indications in the Flight Data Recorder heading data. The airplane was in a sideslip
condition, most likely with the left wing down. This would cause the cargo to shift to the left, supporting the possibility
the fire started, not where heat damage was most pronounced, but to the right - the location of the longitudinal trim
*In static tests the FAA pulled the pins and actuated the oxygen generators.
Two of the five tests resulted in no fire. (Ref. NTSB report, pp. 54-55)
*The NTSB's report cites "...heat damaged wire bundles were not routed
near the breached area of the cargo compartment, whereas the boxes containing the oxygen generators were loaded into the area
directly beneath the breached area of the cargo compartment." (Ref. NTSB accident report, pp 100-101.)
This begs the question, "Were the heat damaged wire bundles those routed, near the relays,'...behind the right
side cargo liner...' as cited in Alert Service Bulletin A27-316?"
The FAA knew there was an unapproved part on Flight 592, believed it might have caused the fire, and hoped
to cover up that information.
Is the FAA guilty of aiding and abetting the unapproved aircraft replacement parts industry?
END OF ARTICLE
CORRECTION: AD 91-21-07 was incorrectly listed as AD 91-27-07 in the originally published article.
The author apologizes for the error. Please use the link at right to review AD 91-21-07.
The information published here is intended to be factual. Airworthy.US apologizes for any mistakes. We will
correct errors as we become aware of them. Any opinion expressed is intended to be obvious.
May 11, 2007
Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy, now mostly forgotten except
for victims' families and friends, and those involved in the cover-up, known as ValuJet Flight 592.
The trail has not gone completely cold, but the effort to keep the investigation
alive seems, at times, impossible.
To those who had hoped there would be closure to the case and that justice would be served, have faith; the truth may yet
JUNE 2005 - AIRWORTHY.US POSTS COMPLETE 1999
ValuJet Flight 592 - SabreTech TRIAL TRANSCRIPT
The entire transcript of the 1999 ValuJet Flight 592 - SabreTech Trial has been posted here. The 13 days of the trial are available by links at the bottom of each page. Read the testimony of the prosecution's
"expert witness." Read Scott Aviation's courtroom demonstration with doctored oxygen generators. Read also the disallowed
testimony of the conference call operator who overheard ValuJet executives discuss their fears of FAA learning of a door they
left open that otherwise might have contained the fire.
MARCH 2004 - THE 5/11 CONSPIRACY & ELECTION
As additional information is obtained, the evidence is mounting that the cover-up was a much wider web of
conspiracy and obstruction of justice than originally believed.
While the FAA was bent on preventing the populace from learning that a bogus part was the cause
of 110 deaths, the White House was intent on maintaining the delusion that recent start-up airlines provided safe commercial
air transportation, on a level equivalent to the major carriers, to a segment of the population previously unable to
Several high-level governmental heads rolled following Flight 592's crash, SabreTech became the proverbial
"punished innocent bystander," ValuJet, the not-so-innocent, was rewarded by being allowed to stay in business, and Bill
Clinton became the first Democrat elected to a second term as President in 60 years.
NOVEMBER 2003 - SECOND FOIA RESPONSE:
In early October 2003, Airworthy.US submitted a second FOIA request, this time for the entire file on the
P/N 9207-10296 SUPs investigation. The response was received on November 19, 2003.
The investigation file provides a good deal of information. Noteworthy is that the file, in the final
report, determined that Leach International violated 14CFR 21.303, and that primary longitudinal trim relay P/N 9207-10296
was unapproved until Leach received PMA on May 29, 1996. Leach, according to the report, never admitted violating the
The report raises many questions however. Why is the first document in it, aside from the SUPs
Report filed on 5/13/96, dated 6/11/96 - one month after the ValuJet 592 accident, and 13 days after Leach was granted
Also, why wasn't American Airlines, purchasers of the parts that were the subject of the Suspected Unapproved
Parts Notification report, mentioned in the investigation report?
Additionally, the investigation determined that the relays, a total of 350 according to Leach records,
were airworthy even though Leach did not produce P/N 9207-10296 relays in accordance with the requirements of PMA
(14 CFR 21.303) until May 29, 1996, when the FAA granted Leach PMA. How did the FAA travel back in time to review
the production of those 350 relays?
Leach was fined $100,000 according to the file. It does not say whether Leach ever paid that fine.
The investigation file supports Airworthy.US' claim that the longitudinal trim relay, P/N 9207-10296, installed
on ValuJet 592 was an unapproved part.
According to FAA Airworthiness Directive AD 91-21-07, relay 9207-10296 could have started the fire
that claimed 110 lives on that fateful May day in 1996.
OCTOBER 2003 - FOIA RESPONSE:
In early September, Airworthy.US submitted a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Suspected Unapproved
Parts Notification that was filed about the time of ValuJet 592's accident .
On October 1, 2003, Airworthy.US received a copy of the Suspected Unapproved Parts Notification that was filed
by an FAA Inspector at Dallas-Ft. Worth on May 13, 1996 against eight longitudinal trim relays, part number 9207-10296.
According to the Suspected Unapproved Parts Notification, the relays were discovered at American Airlines
supply warehouse at DFW Airport on May 13, 1996! That was the Monday following the Saturday crash of ValuJet Flight
Was the inspector there by mere coincidence? If so, it ranks as one of the most extraordinary coincidences
of all time.
The FAA was well aware of the illegal nature of the part. Why didn't the FAA post the Unapproved Parts
Notification on the FAA's Unapproved Parts Notification website? Visit the FAA Unapproved Parts Notification
site via the link, above and to the right.
AUGUST 2003 - SUP REPORT WAS FILED!:
Combing through notes taken during May and June, 1996, in the ongoing effort to uncover leads and objective
evidence, Airworthy.US discovered a previously overlooked revelation; a Suspected Unapproved Parts Notification, FAA Form
8120-11, was filed circa May-June 1996, on the longitudinal trim relay, part number 9207-10296!
The FAA was fully aware of the bogus/unapproved/illegal relay. The official FAA form had been submitted to
the FAA's Suspected Unapproved Parts Program Office! The reported parts were not even new, but were acquired on the used/surplus
parts market in unknown condition by American Airlines, whose parent, AMR, was ValuJet's maintenance contractor at Dallas-Fort
Worth, according to the NTSB report!
The FAA site, Unapproved Parts Notifications (see link, above - right) lists nothing about the relay, or the
The NTSB report fails to mention anyhting about the SUP Notification, or the relay.
JULY 2003 - CASE CAN BE REOPENED!:
Mary Schiavo has informed Airworthy.US that the case can be re-opened if cover-up can be proved.
The first step is to provide evidence that the FAA covered-up the bogus/unapproved/illegal longitudinal trim
relays. Airworthy.US has provided testimony above. It is not enough to warrant re-opening the case by itself, however.
CALL FOR INFORMATION:
If anyone has any information about VJ 592 that will help to re-open the the case, please contact airworthy77(at)earthlink(dot)net.
All serious correspondence will be greatly appreciated.
Specific objective evidence needed includes a copy of the Suspected Unapproved Parts Notification on the longitudinal
trim relay filed around May-June 1996 (Now in possession of Airworthy.US via the Freedom of Information Act).
Also needed is anything in writing, e.g. a memo or letter from the FAA, that may have implied, or expressly
directed, that employees were to ensure no bogus/unapproved/illegal installed part or component was to be discovered on 592.
Also, anyone close to Leach International, a former or current employee for example, who has knowledge of
the FAA pressuring Leach to apply for PMA on the longitudinal trim relays shortly after the accident of May 11, 1996, please
If you know someone who was involved or has any information, please encourage them to contact Airworthy.US.
The evidence is out there. It is only a matter of time until it is found.