Flight 592

On May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 nose-dived into the Everglades just west of Miami International Airport, 10 minutes after departure. All 110 persons on board perished, with the sheer violence of the final impact sequence making identification of their remains nearly impossible. A fire caused by expired oxygen generators had swept through the cargo hold, eventually breaching into the cabin and cockpit, and then finally damaging flight control rigging such that the pilots lost control in the final moments.

The causes of the fire were the usual, banal suspects: criminally sloppy procedures by subcontractors, poor managerial and regulatory oversight, and outdated governmental safety regulations. All made even more tragic as the fire had actually started while the doomed aircraft was on the ground, taxiing to the runway. There was no requirement for the cargo hold to have either a smoke detector or active fire suppression systems, so the crew remained unaware until their fate had nearly been sealed.

There is a memorial just inside the Everglades National Park, a short drive from Miami. 110 stark concrete pillars, arranged in a triangle pointing to the impact site. My mechanic Marcos and I stopped by on our way to the National Park.