Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
AirTran Airways (formerly known as Valujet) is a low-cost airline based in the United States. Its principal hub is at Atlanta, Georgia's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while it also operates smaller "focus city" operations at Philadelphia's Philadelphia International Airport, Baltimore's Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Orlando's Orlando International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Irving.The airline operates routes from coast to coast with a heavy concentration in the East and Midwest.
ValuJet's first flights were on October 26, 1993, with service from Atlanta to Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa; all of which are cities in Florida, with just one Douglas DC-9 that had previously belonged to its chief competitor, Delta Air Lines. The carrier was headed by a group of industry veterans including co-founder and chairman Robert Priddy, who had started a string of successful airlines including; Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), Air Midwest, and Florida Gulf Airlines; board members Maury Gallagher and Tim Flynn, the other two co-founders, developed and ran WestAir before selling it to Mesa Airlines; former Continental Airlines and Flying Tigers President Lewis Jordan joined the carrier a short time later as president.
The airline was taken public in June of 1994, after a year of tremendous growth with the addition of fifteen planes since the first flight in 1993. They became the fastest airline in the history of American aviation to make a profit, earning 21 million dollars in 1994 alone. In October of 1995, ValuJet placed an order with airplane manufacturer McDonnell Douglas for fifty MD-95 (renamed the B717-200 after McDonnell Douglas' merger with Boeing in 1996) jets with an option for fifty more; thus making it the first low cost airline to launch an aircraft.
In 1995, the Department of Defense rejected ValuJet's bid to fly military personnel. The DoD stated that the carrier's maintenance procedures, which provided short term fixes to problems instead of making long term changes, were unacceptable. On February 14, 1996, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Atlanta field office sent a memo to Washington, D.C. stating that, "consideration should be given to the immediate FAR-121 recertification of this airline (ValuJet)." In other words, the airline should be grounded. ValuJet's accident rate was ten times that of the ten major airlines in the U.S. In fact, ValuJet planes made fifteen emergency landings in 1994, fifty-seven in 1995, and fifty-seven from January through May of 1996, equating to almost one emergency landing per day. In February the FAA ordered ValuJet to seek approval before adding any new aircraft or cities to its network, something the industry had not seen since deregulation in 1979.
At 2:04 PM on May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592, a DC-9 aircraft, departed Miami for Atlanta. At 2:10 PM the plane began experiencing electrical problems and requested a return to Miami. Seconds later, shouts of "fire, fire, fire, fire" were recorded on the plane's cockpit voice recorder coming from the cabin. A flight attendant opened the cockpit door and informed the flight crew that the cabin was on fire, even though the ValuJet flight attendant manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases may be present in the cabin. The plane's interior was completely on fire. Flight 592 crashed into the Florida Everglades, at 2:14 PM killing all 110 persons on board. The Captain, Candi Kubeck, was the first female Captain to die while on duty. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that a ValuJet subcontractor, SabreTech, had illegally loaded more than 100 oxygen generator canisters onboard Flight 592. When they activated sometime before takeoff, they produced oxygen and heat of more than 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). The oxygen from the generators fueled the resulting fire in the cargo hold of the plane. ValuJet was blamed for improperly watching SabreTech and the FAA was faulted for failing to properly monitor ValuJet. Soon after the accident the FAA mandated that all passenger aircraft cargo holds be equipped with fire detection and suppression systems. ValuJet was the first airline to complete this work.
On June 17, 1996, ValuJet was grounded by the FAA. On September 26, 1996, ValuJet resumed flying with 15 jets, down from 52 before the crash, after complying with all DOT and FAA requirements. On November 4, 1996, ValuJet announced that Joseph Corr, former CEO of Continental Airlines, would become CEO and President of the airline at a time when the airline was in serious trouble. They had lost $55 million since the crash of Flight 592.
Merger and Effects
After the large amount of negative publicity surrounding the Flight 592 incident, ValuJet suffered serious financial problems. On July 11, 1997, ValuJet announced it would merge with the much smaller Airways, Corp.; the owner of Orlando, Florida based AirTran Airways. In November of 1997, AirTran announced it would move its headquarters to Orlando from Atlanta. On November 17, 1997, AirWays Corp. and ValuJet completed their merger and the name ValuJet became a part of airline history.
In October of 1997, AirTran began assigning seats on its planes, a first for a low fare carrier. The next month they added business class seats on every flight, also a first for a low fare carrier. The old routes from Orlando by AirTran were systematically ended following the merger to focus on Atlanta. In March of 1998, AirTran began a frequent flier program. In June of 1998, Entrepreneur Magazine gave the airline its 1998 award for "Best Domestic Low-Fare Airline". They also won this award in 2001, 2002, and 2004. In July of 1998, AirTran reported its first profitable quarter since early 1996.
On January 6, 1999, the board of directors of AirTran announced that Joseph Leonard had been elected to the position of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President of the company. This then began a new chapter in the airlines history. Since Leonard's tenure began, the airline has had a profitable quarter every quarter, except the quarter following the 9-11 tragedy, something that only Southwest Airlines can claim. On September 24, 1999, AirTran Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 717-200; it entered service on October 12th. On December 12, 2000, AirTran launched service from Atlanta to its first international destination, Grand Bahama Island International Airport. On August 15, 2002, AirTran stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol AAI.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, AirTran reduced its flight schedule by 20%. However, On October 7, AirTran returned to its normal schedule. On October 15, AirTran became the first airline in the nation to reinforce the cockpit doors on all its aircraft. In November of 2002, AirTran entered into an agreement with AirWisconsin to provide regional jet service on some AirTran routes to free up 717 aircraft, a service called AirTran JetConnect. This agreement was terminated in mid-2004.
In June of 2003, AirTran began new service operated by Ryan International Airlines to Denver, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, making it a coast-to-coast airline. On July 1, 2003, AirTran placed an order for 100 Boeing 737's. In October of 2003, AirTran began service to Washington D.C.'s Reagan National Airport and to San Francisco the following month. On January 5, 2004 AirTran's last DC-9 was retired leaving it with a fleet of more than 70 B717's. The first 737 entered AirTran's fleet in June of 2004. In late 2004, AirTran failed in an attempt to acquire American Trans Air (ATA)'s Chicago hub and gates in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
The Air Tran fleet conists of the following aircraft (at March 2005):
- 80 Boeing 717-200
- 10 Boeing 737-700
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