You may have read recently about FAA enforcement levying fines on some air carriers for excessive delays on the tarmac while waiting to offload passengers. It just seems outrageous that some aircraft are forced to remain on the ramp for many hours without a way to get the passengers off and into the terminal. They talk about security and the like but when an aircraft is locked up on the ramp with passengers aboard it seems to me that it is either the FAA’s fault or TSA’s fault, not the airlines.
The “get tough” attitude of the FAA in all areas of enforcement recently seems to be playing the safety card to placate the public and respond to the outcries and the Congress. That is, the more the fines and sanctions then the more it looks like it is doing its “safety” job. A dubious conclusion at best.
When a gate is not available, vehicles should be ordered to transport the passengers. Even the captain could take charge and order the aircraft opened and passengers removed. Safety is the paramount consideration and locked up passengers have gone ballistic in certain cases. If the airline is responsible and is more concerned with money and moving the passengers in the system then maybe they should be held responsible, but passengers locked up in an aircraft on the ramp for hours at a time is just not acceptable and the FAA and TSA should make immediate joint demands for a solution … After all, the captain still has the power and the responsibility.
Help on the way
A meeting with airlines, airports, and other government officials was held on ways to prevent the incidents of delay and confusion last October, mainly in the Northeast, when hundreds of passengers were stranded. Many of the flights sat on the ground for hours. The problem was attributed to a lack of communication between the airlines with regard to their delays due to the weather.
Tarmac delays are now limited to a maximum of three hours … at which time passengers must be let off the aircraft. Airlines that exceed that time (as has recently happened) can face maximum FAA fines of up to $27,500 per passenger!
Maintenance and repair criminal case
Meanwhile, maintenance operations enforcement has picked up in a serious way … The “Paper-clip Caper.”
A recent federal indictment of personnel at a maintenance facility (repair station) in California came to my attention in September of last year. This facility itself was not indicted, nor the corporation, but rather, only some technicians and principals involved with the direction and management of the firm. We have to keep in mind that this is a criminal case and not a certificate action, or civil fine, which would be a companion administrative case against the airframe and powerplant ticket and any other FAA issued certificates held by those charged or the company. Six men in all were charged with crimes.
Charging airmen and other certificate holders with a crime is a somewhat rare occurrence. Although individual airmen have been charged with crimes involving aircraft maintenance for serious accidents and deaths caused by their alleged misdeeds, it is usually seen more frequently in European aviation, like what happened in France as a result of the Concorde disaster. As seen, it can happen here and we should all keep in mind when we perform maintenance that there are companion criminal sanctions as well as administrative sanctions that can be involved with aircraft maintenance.
The criminal charges in this indictment include, conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate and foreign commerce and fraud involving the same, mail fraud, and also an order including criminal forfeiture for all ill-gotten gains from the alleged criminal activity.
The primary business of the company is the repair and overhaul of starter generators, alternators, and rotary or linear actuators, converters, and flight instruments. It is still in business although owned now by a larger company.
Prosecutors allege the faulty repairs happened on small, private aircraft between October 2006 and February 2008.
The FAA alleges that Hillsboro mechanics used incorrect parts and an unqualified individual to make repairs to a Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter.
ValuJet Postscript Give a statement...go to jail By Stephen P. Prentice October 1999 Stephen P. Prentice is an attorney whose practice involves FAA-NTSB issues. He has an...