Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Valujet Airlines

Valujet DC-9-32 N907VJ (47444/578) Del. 04/09/1970 to Delta Airlines as N1289L. (Michael J. Carter Collection)

Valujet Airlines began life in the early 1990s when Robert Priddy (Chairmen and Chief Executive Officer), Lewis Jordan (President and Chief Operating Officer), and Maurice Gallagher (Vice Chairmen and Chief Financial Officer) combined their years of airline experience and joined forces to create the low fare airline. But where was this new start-up to be based and what type of aircraft would best suit the airlines needs? Following a lengthy market research study, Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport was choosen for the companys base of operations and the Douglas DC-9-32 was the aircraft of choice. One of the unique things that Valujet did was to purchase the aircraft rather than leasing them, saving the company millions in lease payments. Valujets DC-9-32 fleet was configured to hold 114 passengers in a one class 3-2 layout. Interestingly Valujets DC-9-32 fleet came from Atlanta hometown rival Delta Airlines. Initial destinations were Ft. Lauderdale, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville all in Florida. Other cities served included Louisville, Memphis, New Orleans, Savannah and Washington D.C.(IAD)

Valujet took to the skies on October 26, 1993 when flight "Critter 901", DC-9-32 N3339L (47277/379) with the soon to be familiar 'Critter' logo on the forward fuselage lifted off Rwy 27R at Heartsfield International and headed for Tampa, Florida. Valujet quickly became the sweetheart of the airline industry and could do no wrong. Valujet grew rapidly, much to rapidly due to the lowfare starved folks of Atlanta and also Delta's somewhat unresponsive reaction to the new airline. Keeping up with passenger demand became a huge undertaking. The reservation and information phone lines were continually busy and the airplanes always operated at full capacity, a problem all airlines especially new start-ups wish they had. Valujet needed to add capacity but at the same time keep operating costs down as much as possible.

Valujet looking for a more economical aircraft to operate, announced on October 19, 1995 that it had placed a firm order with McDonnell Douglas for 50 new MD-95-30 aircraft worth approximately $1 billion with options for an additional 50 aircraft, making the airline the launch customer for the new aircraft. Being the launch customer for the MD-95-30 also gave Valujet a break on the price of each aircraft, only paying an estimated $20 million each, the list price being around $30 million per copy.

In 1996, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in publishing its Strategic Plan, encouraged other airlines to emulate Valujet. Valujets IPO was also one of the fastest appreciating stocks in airline history, the future was nothing but bright, skies the limit as it is said.

May 11, 1996 would spell the end of the fairytale life that Valujet led. Flight 592, DC-9-32 N904VJ (47377/496) ex N1281L departed Miami International enroute to Atlanta when just minutes after becoming airborne the Captain declared an emergency and requested clearence back to Miami due to an inflight fire, the flight never made it. The fire in the forward cargo hold caused by improperly packaged oxygen cannisters brought the DC-9 down in the Florida Everglades west of Miami killing all 110 people on board.

The aftermath of the crash was felt by all start-up and lowfare carriers as reports of cover-ups by the FAA and unsafe operations at Valujet were brought into the spotlight by the newsmedia. On June 17, 1996 Valujet voluntarily suspended all operations as the FAA put the airline under the microscope, performing one of the most rigorous and extensive inpections in airline history.

November 1996 saw the arrival of D Joseph Corr taking over as President and Chief Operating Officer. When Corr arrived the airline had forty-two aircraft in its fleet, but only fifteen on the operating certificate and ten in flying condition. The airline was losing millions of dollars each week, and few people were buying tickets due to the airlines new reputation as being reckless, and unsafe, something had to change and very soon if the airline was to survive. June 10, 1997 saw the birth of that change when the airline announced it was acquiring AirTran Airways. The Valujet named disappeared along with the 'Critter' logo forever taking a place in airline history that will not be soon forgotten.

Valuejet Flight 592 Memorial
Valujet Fleetlist
Valujet Photo Gallery One
Valujet Photo Gallery Two
AirTran Airways