Overnight tests on the flight data recorder pulled from the Everglades muck showed it has good information about what caused a ValuJet Flight 592 to crash, killing 109 people, an investigator said Tuesday.
A police diver looking for remains of victims found the 30-pound recorder Monday in an "extraordinarily fortunate" find, said Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board."He stepped on it," Francis said.
The recorder was sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington for analysis, shipped in a water-filled cooler to ensure against drying that might damage it.
"There is good data on the recorder," Francis told reporters at a midday briefing. He declined to give specifics.
The other of the so-called "black boxes," which records cockpit conversations, remained missing, Francis said.
The data recorder was bent but in good shape, Francis said. The box on the 27-year-old DC-9 recorded fewer details than those on newer jets. Older recorders measure only 11 functions, such as speed and altitude.
The jetliner en route to Atlanta crashed into the Everglades shortly after takeoff Saturday from Miami, killing everyone on board. The pilot had been trying to make an emergency landing after smoke filled the cockpit and cabin.
Asked if anything else significant to the investigation was found, Francis replied, "You're picking these pieces up; you're not analyzing them on the spot."
Also Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced plans to accelerate hiring of inspectors and review how they do their jobs.
The FAA had been planning to hire 300 to 400 more safety inspectors this year. FAA Administrator David Hinson said Tuesday the effort will be speeded up - with 100 hired by June.
Hinson testified before the Senate Transportation Committee that the moves are in response to Clinton's demand that the nation's airlines "continue to operate at the highest level of safety."
On Monday, teams of divers walked side by side, searching the swamp inch by inch and accompanied by a sharpshooter on the lookout for alligators and poisonous snakes.
The searchers filled bags with body parts, including fingers, hands, feet, but nothing larger than a knee, Metro-Dade police Cmdr. Al Harper said.
"It would be traumatic for even the most seasoned homicide detective," he said.
Retired Dade County Medical Examiner Joseph Davis, who is taking part in the investigation, said some victims might never be identified. "I don't hold any hope we'll find any recoverable large parts of people," he said.
Before flying from Atlanta to Miami on its next to last flight earlier Saturday, the plane was delayed by maintenance problems, according to records reviewed by investigators. A worker had to replace circuit breakers for the plane's fuel pump twice before the plane was cleared to take off.
Francis said he couldn't "start to comment" on whether there was any link between the circuit-breaker problem and the crash.
At the crash scene, about 30 divers in rubberized suits to protect them from skin-irritating jet fuel walked through the water in shifts that lasted only 15 to 20 minutes because of the conditions: heat in the 90s, swarms of mosquitoes and horseflies, razor-sharp sawgrass, and water 6 inches to 5 feet deep over the thick muck.
As the search dragged on, some relatives of crash victims were becoming frustrated.
Charter flight makes emergency landing
A charter airliner with 119 people aboard made a safe emergency landing Tuesday at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia after losing cabin pressure, officials said. Only minor injuries were reported, including bloody noses and inner ear problems caused by the rapid decompression, said Fire and Paramedical Services Chief Don Haupt. One person was taken to a hospital, he said. The Miami Air Boeing 727 was on a flight from New York City to Grand Turk Island in the Caribbean when it depressurized shortly before 10 a.m., officials said. The problem occurred after the plane reached its maximum altitude.