ValuJet's Bold Bid To Fly Again

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ATLANTA: ValuJet's plans to take to the air less than three months after its disastrous May plane crash were met with a tight-lipped response from the FAA Wednesday. While the airline, grounded since mid-June, says it anticipates that revamped maintenance and training procedures will convince the FAA to reinstate its license by early August, the agency won't say when it expects to reach a decision. "The FAA knows the heat is on and is going to scrutinize ValuJet's operations from top to bottom before it lets the airline fly again," says TIME's Jerry Hannifin. FAA spokesperson Henry Price says only that, "The FAA outlined a number of things it found unacceptable and is reviewing ValuJet's plan." ValuJet, on the other hand, says that the airline is in the second phase of a three-part FAA plan to reinstate its license. A key component: moving from contract maintenance crews to full-time employees supervised by a newly-appointed senior vice president. ValuJet would be allowed to fly up to 15 of its 51 planes to start, although a schedule for full resumption of service has not been determined, says spokesperson Gregg Kenyon. "The FAA will eventually reinstate ValuJet's license," says Hannifin. But will the public ever trust ValuJet again? "ValuJet will bring customers back with low prices and a big marketing campaign to ease concerns about safety," says Hannifin, "although it may take up to a year before ValuJet returns to its pre-crash sales and operations levels." In the meantime, ValuJet has given up its leases at airports in Boston, Dallas, and Windsor Locks, Connecticut to cut costs. Jenifer Mattos