Celebrating and Remembering
This month, we celebrate an historic proclamation for aircraft maintenance professionals. Sadly, we also remember the 25th anniversary of a tragic aviation accident.
First — the celebration. In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution proclaiming May 24 as AMT Day. The proclamation reads, in part: "Resolved, That the House of Representatives — (1) supports National Aviation Maintenance Technician Day to honor the professional men and women who ensure the safety and security of our airborne aviation infrastructure; and (2) recognizes the life and memory of Charles Edward Taylor, the aviation maintenance technician who built and maintained the engine that was used to power the Wright brothers' first controlled flying machine on December 17, 1903."
This May 24 marked the 13th anniversary of AMT Day celebrations. During the past 13 years, more people have learned about Charles E. Taylor and his important contributions he made to aviation history by designing and building the engine that powered the Wright Flyer into history in 1903. While AMT Day is a time to honor and remember Charles Taylor, it is also an opportunity to remember the critical part we play in the safety and security of our airborne aviation infrastructure.
Sadly, this month we are reminded of the 25th anniversary of the ValuJet 592 crash.
On May 11, 1996, ValuJet flight 592 crashed en route from Miami to Atlanta. It plunged into the Florida Everglades about 15 miles from Miami International Airport. All five crew members and 105 passengers were killed.
The NTSB determined that a fire in the cargo hold caused the crash. The fire was caused by improperly shipped chemical oxygen generators. There were 144 oxygen generators on board the flight that had been recently removed from three newly acquired used MD-80 aircraft at a Miami facility run by the airline’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech. Investigators discovered some of the oxygen generator canisters still had unexpended oxidizer cores and there were no safety caps on the canisters. The NTSB concluded the fire on ValuJet flight 592 started when one or more canisters discharged after being shaken or tipped over in the forward cargo hold.
On July 13, 1999, three employees from SabreTech were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy and making false statements stemming from lying to the FAA and falsifying work cards. The three men were Daniel Gonzalez, VP and Director of Maintenance for SabreTech, Eugene Florence, a SabreTech mechanic, and Mauro Valenzuela, also a SabreTech mechanic.
The SabreTech trial concluded on December 6, 1999. SabreTech was convicted of nine counts of criminal hazardous materials violations. Gonzalez and Florence were acquitted of conspiracy charges.
And what happened to Valenzuela? Well, he is a fugitive. He fled before the trial began and remains a federal fugitive to this day.
As aviation maintenance professionals, we must understand how critical our safe and proper maintenance actions are. I believe the Mechanic's Creed is the perfect way to end this blog.
Upon my honor I swear that I shall hold in sacred trust the rights and privileges conferred upon me as a certified mechanic. Knowing full well that the safety and lives of others are dependent upon my skill and judgment, I shall never knowingly subject others to risks which I would not be willing to assume for myself, or for those dear to me.
In discharging this trust, I pledge myself never to undertake work or approve work which I feel to be beyond the limits of my knowledge, nor shall I allow any non-certificated superior to persuade me to approve aircraft or equipment as airworthy against my better judgment, nor shall I permit my judgment to be influenced by money or other personal gain, nor shall I pass as airworthy aircraft or equipment about which I am in doubt, either as a result of direct inspection or uncertainty regarding the ability of others who have worked on it to accomplish their work satisfactorily.
I realize the grave responsibility which is mine as a certified airman, to exercise my judgment on the airworthiness of aircraft and equipment. I therefore, pledge unyielding adherence to these precepts for the advancement of aviation and for the dignity of my vocation.
Flight Safety Foundation
Written by Jerome Lederer Director, Safety Bureau
U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board, 1941