Hinson oversaw the government's response to the Valujet Flight 592 crash on May 11, 1996 in the Florida Everglades. According to the NTSB, the airline had improperly transported cabin chemical-oxygen generators in the cargo hold, which started a fire onboard when the initiation pins were jostled and the oxygen generators began to flow. The chemical reaction inside the metal canisters created tremendous heat, ignited tires adjacent to the canisters, and the oxygen fed the fire. Eventually the cabin filled with smoke and fire from the cargo hold area.
The findings of the NTSB on the crash were challenged by those who believed that arcing in the electrical wiring system may have caused the fire. Electrical fire incidents occurred with TWA Flight 800 and Swissair Flight 111, both after the Valujet crash.
Mr. Hinson has been involved with flying since 1954, when he entered flight school with the Navy. After a hitch in the military, he flew as a pilot for Northwest Airlines and as an instructor pilot for United Air Lines. He then spent ten years (1963-73) as Director of Flight Standards and Engineering for Hughes Airwest. In 1973, he moved on to other ventures, including a distributorship for Beech Aircraft. Then, in 1978, he joined with three other people to start Midway Airlines (ML), which he served as chairman for six years (1985-91). While working as the Executive Vice President for Douglas Aircraft, a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, President Clinton appointed him to head the FAA. Hinson was able to enact a number of important changes for the flying public, such as the "One Level of Safety" for commuter aircraft and the use of satellite technology for civil aviation.
He now serves on boards at the National Air and Space Museum and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He continues to fly his own plane, a Beechcraft Duke, and has logged more than 8,000 hours in over 70 aircraft types.