"In the 10 years since this tragedy took place, the airline has completely reinvented itself," AirTran said in a statement. "We've changed everything except our commitment to safety, which will always be our top priority at AirTran Airways.
Aviation experts say the ValuJet crash - coupled with the fuel tank explosion over Long Island Sound that destroyed a TWA Boeing 747 on July 16, 1996, killing 230 people - put a much-needed focus on chronic safety problems. Two federal commissions created to investigate those problems resulted in the setting of a national goal to reduce the fatal accident rate by 80 percent over a decade.
The aviation fatality rate is on track for a 73 percent reduction since those twin 1996 disasters, said Stuart Matthews, president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation.
"From a commercial standpoint, aviation has never been safer," Matthews said.
In 1996, there were 342 deaths aboard regularly scheduled commercial passenger aircraft involved in accidents, a rate of one passenger fatality for every 1.9 million who boarded planes, according to the NTSB. By 2005, the number of fatalities had dropped to 20, or one for every 42 million passengers.
Many Valujet family members have sought to create something of their own to remember loved ones, from a basketball tournament in North Carolina that raised money to send poor kids to camp, to a Methodist church in Venezuela built in honor of one victim.
On the Net:
National Transportation Safety Board: http://www.ntsb.gov
Federal Aviation Administration: http://www.faa.gov
National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation: http://www.planesafe.org
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