Charter under the microscope
Do not fly any more illegal charters.
That is what the FAA, since March 2 last year, has attempted to tell Platinum Jet Management of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Finally, on June 12, the Department of Transportation issued a consent order in which Platinum Jet agreed to stop flying illegal charters, without admitting that it had broken any laws.
The consent order includes fines, which the FAA believes will serve as a deterrent to others who might consider flying illegal charters. (Note: AIN is using the term “illegal charters” as a shorter substitute for the FAA’s term: “engaged in air transportation without requisite Departmental economic authority in violation of 49 U.S.C. 41301, 41703 and 41712.” These rules address U.S. Codes 41301, certificate and permit requirements for air carriers; 41703, cabotage or transport within the U.S. by foreign carriers; and 41712, which prohibits unfair and deceptive practices.)
The June consent order is the latest salvo in a legal battle that began after the early-morning departure of a business jet from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey went awry, resulting in a Challenger 600 crossing a busy highway and becoming embedded in an empty warehouse. One early result of this accident and the ensuing battle is that the FAA has apparently decided it is time to enforce more rigorously the rules covering “operational control,” believing that doing so should help eliminate illegal charters and the safety problems they generate.
The brouhaha started when investment firm Kelso needed to fly eight people to Chicago on Feb. 2, 2005. Kelso’s Teterboro-based Challenger 601 was down for maintenance, so Kelso contacted charter broker BlueStarJets to arrange for a charter. BlueStarJets booked Platinum Jet to fly the charter and, according to an earlier interview with AIN, was assured by Platinum that it was certified by charter auditing firm ARG/US at the “Gold” level.
N370V, the Bombardier Challenger 600 that Platinum used to fly the Kelso trip, flew to Teterboro the night before the Chicago flight (which itself was an illegal charter, according to the FAA). This Challenger was owned by DDH Aviation/448 Alliance, a company set up by Darwin Deason, who is now chairman of the board of Affiliated Computer Services in Dallas.
Platinum sent two pilots–captain John Kimberling and first officer Carlos Salaverria Jr.–and what Platinum executives call a “cabin aide,” Angelica Calad-Gomez, to Teterboro that evening to fly the Kelso charter the next day. Both Kimberling and Salaverria were contract pilots for Platinum.
Kimberling was not qualified to fly Part 135 charters, and Salaverria’s second-class medical certificate was no longer valid, having lapsed at midnight January 31. Salaverria, who wasn’t a U.S. citizen, was in the U.S. on a tourist visa, which does not allow employment in the U.S. The flight crew rested for about five hours before waking early on the morning of February 2.
The pilots fueled the Challenger at Million Air and repositioned to Atlantic Aviation, where the eight passengers embarked and the airplane, originally slotted for 7,000-foot-long Runway 01, taxied to the newly assigned 6,000-foot Runway 06. Kimberling later told NTSB investigators that in preparing for the flight they calculated the mtow but neither checked whether the mtow center of gravity was within the Challenger’s center-of-gravity envelope.
The takeoff proceeded normally until Vr, when Kimberling, who was the pilot flying, tried to rotate by pulling the yoke aft. The yoke wouldn’t move, and the Challenger
accelerated to 158 knots. Five seconds after Salaverria’s Vr call, Kimberling called for an abort, and the two pilots applied the brakes, spoilers and thrust reversers.
Witnesses reported seeing a burst of snow as the Challenger sped through the fence at the end of Runway 06, across the six lanes of Route 46 and into a warehouse. The Challenger’s wing hit a car, seriously injuring occupants Rohan Foster and James Dinnall, who ended up in a coma.
First officer Salaverria’s legs were stuck, and Kimberling, covered in jet fuel, lifted Salaverria out of his seat by his belt and crawled behind him to exit the airplane, which was now on fire. By this time, the rest of the passengers, assisted by Calad-Gomez, had exited the wrecked Challenger. None of the passengers was seriously injured, although the pilots both suffered serious injuries.
Shortly after the accident the legal paperwork and maneuvers erupted and airport opponents latched onto the accident as another reason to restrict Teterboro operations.
Trying to unravel the various legal actions, press releases, public statements, post-accident interviews and other moves that occurred after the accident is a daunting task, so AIN has organized them in a timeline that lends, hopefully, some order to what has been a confusing series of events culminating in the June 12 consent decree between the FAA and Platinum Jet.
The story dates back to long before the accident, so we begin with an early version of the FAA’s OpSpec A008 on operational control, details about agreements between Platinum Jet and Darby Aviation, a press release that attaches the label “private charter partner” to Platinum Jet Management and an FAA notice about charter brokers.
April 28, 1998: The FAA publishes OpSpec A008 on charter operational control. A008 is the framework for the operational control meetings that the FAA held around the U.S. this year to explain to charter operators their responsibilities for maintaining operational control of their aircraft. The final operational control meeting was held June 29 in Dallas, and the FAA expects to issue an updated version of OpSpec A008 by August 31.
This earlier version of A008 clearly spells out responsibilities of Part 135 certificate holders, such as:
• Certificate holder retains all responsibility for operational control of aircraft operations and for actions and inactions of employees and agents.
• This responsibility is not transferable to any other person or entity.
• This responsibility supersedes any agreements or contracts the certificate holder might have with other entities.
• The certificate holder may not: franchise or share its authority for conduct of operations under its certificate; use a “doing business as” (dba) that represents an entity without an air carrier certificate as having a certificate; enter into a wet lease where a non-certified entity provides an aircraft and at least one crewmember.
Aug. 8, 2003: Platinum Jet leases N370V from DDH Aviation/448 Alliance.
Nov. 17, 2003: Platinum Jet and Darby Aviation (dba AlphaJet) sign a “charter management agreement” in which Darby Aviation is listed as the “exclusive agent for on-demand FAR 135 operations,” according to U.S. District Court documents, and Platinum Jet is listed as the owner of the Challenger. “The charter management agreement further states that Platinum Jet is responsible for providing flight crews to Darby and for ensuring that all necessary or required inspections and routine maintenance are performed on the aircraft while Darby is responsible for ensuring that all crewmembers receive the proper Part 135 training.”
May 1, 2004: The RoopGroup, based in the Republic of Guyana, the home country of Platinum Jet president and CEO Michael Brassington, issues a press release about its CariAirways division: “RoopGroup...announced today that the fledgling Guyana-based airline had selected a leading international private air charter company, Platinum Jet Management, to provide immediate VIP and executive jet service to the Caribbean basin.”
Oct. 8, 2004: The FAA issues “Notice on the Role of Air Charter Brokers in Arranging Air Transportation.” This notice points out that a charter broker that contracts with a charter company and also with the charter customer “is engaged in air transportation as an indirect air carrier without economic authority in contravention of the requirements [in the notice].”
Challenger Overrun Sparks Interest
Feb. 2, 2005: N370V, the Platinum Jet Management Challenger, is destroyed during the runway overrun in Teterboro. After the accident, captain Kimberling tells investigators that the flight was conducted under Part 91 because he was not qualified to fly under Part 135. Brassington, one of three owners of Platinum Jet, who holds an ATP and flies for the company, fills out the NTSB pilot/operator aircraft accident report. On page 2 he indicates that the flight was conducted under Part 91.
Feb. 16, 2005: The FAA Office of Regional Counsel, Eastern Region, issues an administrative subpoena to Platinum Jet requiring production of requested books and records by February 23. The materials requested include aircraft lease and charter management and charter broker agreements; advertising created by Platinum Jet promoting any aircraft operation; pay, flight, duty-time and training records for Platinum pilots and mechanics; maintenance agreement and records of payments to maintainers; aircraft flight logs and weight-and-balance information for the accident Challenger and any other aircraft owned, leased or operated by Platinum Jet; and documents covering agreements and payments for arranged passenger flights and any agreements with Kelso, BlueStarJets, Darby Aviation, AlphaJet International or any other carrier.
Feb. 28, 2005: The FAA files a petition and application for an order to show cause against Platinum Jet with the U.S. District Court, New Jersey. This petition is an attempt to force compliance with the above subpoena. Platinum Jet produced some of the requested records but did not provide pilot and mechanic pay, flight, duty time and training records. In a response to the subpoena, Platinum Jet stated that it is not required to maintain such records, that these “records may be maintained by AlphaJet International,” that release of the records would compromise personal privacy and that, in any case, pilots and mechanics were all independent contractors. Nevertheless, the FAA petition explained, “if such records are in the possession of Platinum Jet Management,” the company is “required to produce them in response to this subpoena.”
March 3, 2005: A federal judge grants the order requiring Platinum Jet to provide the documents mentioned above. The day before, the FAA issued an emergency cease-and-desist order to Platinum Jet that called for the company to stop operating as an air carrier (a role for which it never held a certificate).
March 9, 2005: During departure from Tupelo Regional Airport in Mississippi, pilots flying a Challenger 600 were unable to rotate after the yoke jammed due to a modification that caused interference with a microphone jack. Nothing in the NTSB factual data on the New Jersey accident indicates that N370V had a similar problem.
March 23, 2005: The FAA suspends Darby Aviation’s Part 135 certificate on an emergency basis. Reasons for the suspension included:
• Darby Aviation permitted Platinum Jet to fly passenger charters for compensation, but Platinum Jet did not hold an air carrier operating certificate.
• Darby Aviation, via the Nov. 17, 2003, charter management agreement, “sold, assigned, transferred and or leased the privileges of its air carrier operating certificate to Platinum.”
• Darby Aviation did not maintain operational control of Platinum flights.
• On Feb. 2, 2005, Platinum provided and maintained N370V, paid for maintenance personnel, kept maintenance records, employed and dispatched the flight crew, scheduled pilot and flight attendant training and maintained training records, performed drug testing and criminal history checks for pilots and mechanics, did flight scheduling and kept trip records and flight manifests on Platinum stationery. Per the agreement, Platinum kept 90 percent of the revenue from charters and gave 10 percent to Darby/AlphaJet. Finally, “Platinum paid AlphaJet a monthly ‘Part 135 certificate fee.’
“Darby dba AlphaJet, by selling, assigning, transferring and/or leasing its air carrier certificate to Platinum and relinquishing operational control of flights purportedly conducted under its air carrier certificate to Platinum, has abrogated its obligations under 14 CFR section 135.77 to be responsible for the operational control of flights conducted under its air carrier certificate,” the FAA stated.
April 2005: Darwin Deason, owner of DDH Aviation/448 Alliance and N370V, files a lawsuit against Platinum Jet Management concerning distribution of insurance proceeds from the accident.
Safety Issues Take Center Stage
April 21, 2005: Administrative Law Judge William R. Mullins dismisses the FAA’s emergency order suspending Darby’s air carrier certificate. He found that adequate operational control processes were in place, and that the FAA should spend more time in the field looking at charter operations instead of using documentation to assess operational control issues.
May 2005: The Deason insurance proceeds lawsuit is settled. Terms of the settlement were not revealed.
May 9, 2005: The National Air Transportation Association and NBAA file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief urging the FAA to avoid looking at the business structure of the Platinum Jet/Darby Aviation agreement and focus on the safety impact. “When applying a safety standard, the determination of whether an operator violated that safety standard must be based on an analysis of the impact on safety, not an analysis of the operator’s business structure,” the brief noted.
May 11, 2005: Rohan Foster, the driver of the car hit by N370V during the runway overrun, and James Dinnall, a passenger in the car, file lawsuits. Dinnall, seriously
injured and in a coma through March 2005, has recovered but still suffers from brain damage after many months of rehabilitation, according to a spokesman for law firm Danker & Milstein, which represents the consolidated lawsuits of Foster and Dinnall.
The lawsuit’s defendants include Bombardier, DDH Aviation/448 Alliance, Darby Aviation, Platinum Jet Management, Atlantic Aviation Services, Million Air Teterboro, Million Air Interlink, Avports, John Kimberling, Carlos Salaverria Jr., and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The lawsuit accuses the defendants
of negligence, breach of expressed and implied warranties, defective products (the airplane) and loss of spousal services, consortium, felicity and love.
May 16, 2005: The FAA responds to the NATA/NBAA amicus brief, noting that “NBAA and NATA appear to misapprehend the nature of this case. This is not a case in which the FAA has suspended or revoked [the] respondent’s certificate for a regulatory violation; rather, it is a case in which the FAA has raised a reasonable basis to question whether [the] respondent remains qualified to hold its Part 135 certificate based on evidence that it surrendered operational control of an aircraft on its operation specifications to Platinum Jet Management, which is not a certified entity that is authorized to conduct flights under Part 135.”
May 26, 2005: The NTSB, in Order EA-5159, upholds the FAA’s emergency suspension of Darby Aviation’s Part 135 certificate, noting the following violations (space constraints preclude an exhaustive list), which came from the FAA investigation:
• At all times relevant herein, Platinum did not hold an air carrier certificate and did not have operations specifications to operate under Part 135.
• Darby dba AlphaJet’s operations specifications and its manual did not list Platinum (or its agents, contractors or employees) as authorized to exercise operational control.
• By virtue of the charter management agreement, from on or about Nov. 17, 2003, to on or about Feb. 2, 2005, Darby dba AlphaJet caused, permitted or allowed a scheme to exist by which Platinum unlawfully operated passenger-carrying flights for compensation or hire.
• For example, on or about Feb. 2, 2005, Darby dba AlphaJet caused, permitted or allowed Platinum to operate Challenger 600 N370V in a charter operation at Teterboro Airport, in New Jersey. The aircraft crashed on takeoff.
• By virtue of the charter management agreement, from on or about Nov. 17, 2003, to on or about Feb. 2, 2005, Darby dba AlphaJet sold, assigned, transferred and/or leased the privileges of its air carrier operating certificate to Platinum.
• By virtue of that agreement, Darby dba AlphaJet failed to maintain responsibility for operational control of its flight operations.
• By virtue of Darby dba AlphaJet causing, permitting or allowing Platinum to operate passenger-carrying flights for compensation or hire when Platinum did not hold an air carrier certificate and appropriate operations specifications, and by virtue of Darby dba AlphaJet failing to maintain responsibility for operational control of its flight operations, Darby dba AlphaJet caused, permitted or allowed Platinum to exercise operational control for passenger-carrying flights for compensation or hire when Platinum; used pilots under Part 135 when, since the beginning of the 12th calendar month before that service, that pilot had not passed a written or oral test given by the Administrator or an authorized check pilot on the pilot’s knowledge of the specified areas; that pilot had not passed a competency check given by the Administrator or an authorized check pilot in that class of aircraft; used crewmembers in operations under Part 135 when each crewmember had not completed the appropriate initial or recurrent training phase of the training program appropriate to the type of operation in which the crewmember was to serve since the beginning of the 12th calendar month before that service; and used unqualified flight check airmen to administer flight checks to pilots.
• Darby dba AlphaJet, by selling, assigning, transferring and/or leasing its air carrier certificate to Platinum and relinquishing operational control of flights purportedly conducted under its air carrier certificate to Platinum, has abrogated its obligation under 14 CFR section 135.77 to be responsible for the operational control of flights conducted under its air carrier certificate.
May 27, 2005: The FAA issues AD2005-11-04 on the microphone jack problem that caused the March 9 Tupelo, Miss., stuck-yoke accident.
Aug. 3, 2005: The FAA orders the emergency revocation of Platinum Jet president and CEO Brassington’s ATP certificate. The revocation order cites a long list
of alleged violations of FARs, including flying charters for compensation or hire while listing the flights as Part 91 operations in the trip itinerary and manifest sheets; flying a Part 135 flight on Jan. 2, 2005, without having passed the Part 135 written or oral test (135.293(a)), competency check (135.293(b)) or flight check (135.299(a)); flying a number of Part 135 flights in N370V without that airplane’s having been weighed in the preceding 36 months; all those flights were “operated carrying passengers for compensation or hire without an appropriate air carrier certificate and appropriate operations specifications” and “without holding appropriate economic authority from the Department of Transportation.”
The FAA concluded: “Your actions as described above show an indifference to aviation regulatory requirements, to the need for accuracy in aviation records and for aviation safety. As a result, you lack the qualifications to continue to hold any airman privileges.”
Teterboro Comes under Fire
Sept. 22, 2005: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners approved the design and construction of an engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) at the end of Runway 06 at Teterboro at an estimated cost of $11 million. For airports such as Teterboro without the space for 1,000-foot runway safety areas, an EMAS offers similar protection in less space (about 600 feet) using aerated cement blocks that absorb energy by crumbling under the weight of a speeding airplane. The Port Authority Board also wants EMAS installed at the end of Runway 19, which would cost another $9 million. The Runway 06 EMAS is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Oct. 6, 2005: In NTSB Order EA-5180, the NTSB upholds an appeal of Brassington’s ATP revocation, in which administrative law judge William Mullins modified the punishment to a 30-day suspension of his ATP certificate. Not all NTSB board members concurred with the final decision, although then-chairman Ellen Engleman Conners did agree with the 30-day suspension. “When we are acting as an appellate body, principles of safety do not supersede principles of administrative law,” she wrote.
Oct. 19, 2005: The FAA issues a wet-lease policy guidance letter and asks for comments from industry. The letter noted that wet leases are not permissible if an air carrier is wet leasing (aircraft and flight crew) an aircraft from a non-air carrier.
Dec. 1, 2005: The FAA orders revocation of Aero Leasings’ Part 135 certificate for what was an allegedly illegal charter conducted on Nov. 9, 2004, in which a Cessna 208 Caravan carried 17 pregnant sheep from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Long Island, Bahamas. In addition to operational control issues, the FAA said the flight was illegal because the Caravan was unairworthy due to the modifications done to carry the sheep. These included lining the floor with wood chips and building two pens using hog wire from the floor to near the ceiling, held by plastic ties attached to the fuselage. “The above configuration was not an approved configuration,” the FAA stated, explaining why the Caravan was unairworthy.
Jan. 12, 2006: New Jersey congressman Steve Rothman (D) calls for increased security at Teterboro after a woman drives her Jeep through a fence and into a parked jet. “Today’s accident is yet another indication that Teterboro Airport is a disaster waiting to happen,” he said in a statement. “If an 18-year-old can accidentally breach the security fence and drive straight onto the tarmac into a fully fueled aircraft, just imagine what a psychopath or terrorist could do.”
Feb. 4, 2006: Platinum president and CEO Brassington revises the Feb. 2, 2005, NTSB pilot/operator aircraft accident report, changing the box that says the flight was conducted under Part 91 to Part 135.
Feb. 23, 2006: The NTSB, in Order EA-5210, affirms the emergency revocation of Aero Leasings’ Part 135 certificate.
March 13, 2006: New Jersey congressman Rothman calls for a 25-percent reduction in operations at Teterboro due to pollution caused by aircraft. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is currently sponsoring a study measuring pollution produced by aircraft, automobiles and trucks near Teterboro, through the end of this year.
March 31, 2006: Platinum’s Brassington sends a letter to the NTSB about errors in the investigation of the Feb. 2, 2005, Teterboro accident. The letter concludes: “Platinum is displeased with the investigation of the Teterboro occurrence to date and is concerned that the NTSB’s final report will be based upon inaccurate information.”
Brassington’s complaints included:
• The NTSB and Bombardier used a Challenger 601 simulator to simulate the accident scenario. (Bombardier used a 604 desktop simulator. The NTSB also ran tests on a FlightSafety International Challenger 600 simulator.)
• The NTSB simulator sessions used a fuel amount significantly higher than was in the aircraft at the time of the accident and there is no evidence that the accident Challenger was actually overweight. Brassington questioned the NTSB’s not having taken into account fuel burned by the APU and during taxi, as well as its
determining the weight of the baggage by using the weight of the baggage after it was wet with fuel and fire retardant following the accident.
• Brassington contended that the NTSB has failed to investigate captain Kimberling’s report that the control yoke froze during the takeoff run. “There has been no investigation of this key issue,” he wrote, and “there have been numerous Airworthiness Directives issued by Bombardier after the crash relating to the pitch control system that have not been investigated.” (Bombardier issued Advisory Wire AW600-00-2247 relating to the mic-jack problem addressed by AD2005-11-04. Manufacturers cannot issue ADs.–Ed.) Brassington added, “Similar incidents of ‘control malfunction’ with other Challenger 600s have not been investigated.” (AIN was unable to find any other Challenger flight-control problems in either the NTSB or FAA accident/incident databases.–Ed.)
• “At Mr. Kimberling’s deposition, the weight and balance was completed three times and the cg of the aircraft was calculated to be inside the 16-percent forward limit. Numerous requests were made to the court reporter to include this information at the deposition. However, this is not reflected in the public docket or in Mr. Kimberling’s transcript.”
Renewed Interest in Charter Ops
May 5, 2006: In its final report on the cause of the Nov. 8, 2004 Montrose, Colo., crash involving NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol and his family, NTSB board member Deborah Hersman criticized the FAA for lack of oversight of charter operators. “While it is true,” she wrote, “that the crew’s failure to inspect the wings for contamination was the immediate cause of the accident, there were factors involved in this accident that are factors in other Part 135 air charter operations that should be addressed before they become causal to future accidents
involving air charters.”
In general, she added, except for initially certifying Part 135 operators, FAA oversight “appears to be lacking. I heard again and again from industry experts that the FAA’s oversight of Part 135 operators is mostly limited to review of paperwork without
actual physical inspections of equipment, maintenance or operational practices.”
Oversight is difficult because of the confusing relationships between charter certificate holders, management clients, charter brokers, aircraft owners and the many “doing business as” fictitious business names some operators use. “The only thing that is clear is that it is all very confusing,” Hersman wrote. “It begs the question of whether the FAA has the resources and the ability to oversee these complex business arrangements.
“The need for greater transparency in the operations of Part 135 air charter service is crucial,” Hersman concluded. “While transparency by itself will not prevent an accident caused by a crew inexperienced in flying in winter conditions, it could go a long way to exposing safety weaknesses of some operators within the industry and prevent them from finding shelter under diverse and undisclosed corporate names.” She added that the NTSB voted to recommend requiring clear labeling of Part 135 flights with the name of the company holding operational control, any dba names, the aircraft owner and names of any brokers involved.
May 12, 2006: The FAA revokes the air carrier operating certificate of yet another charter operator, American Air Network (AAN). According to an FAA press release, “The FAA determined that AAN permitted flights for hire or compensation to be conducted on its air carrier certificate when individuals who did not hold an air carrier certificate exercised operational control of those flights. AAN described itself as “a Part 135 management company.”
May 16, 2006: The FAA releases the latest version of OpSpecA008 at the Van Nuys operational control forum. The proposed release date of the final version of A008 is August 31.
June 12, 2006: The Department of Transportation and Platinum Jet Management agree to a consent order in which Platinum admits no wrongdoing but agrees to pay fines of $150,000 (for the company) and $75,000 (for Platinum Jet owners Michael Brassington, Paul Brassington and Andre Budhan). Half of the fines will not have to be paid if Platinum Jet and its owners refrain from violating the cease-and-desist or payment provisions of the consent order.
The consent order is clear in its summary of what it says Platinum did wrong, including air transportation without economic authority; cabotage because Michael Brassington is not a U.S. citizen and therefore Platinum Jet is technically a foreign air carrier; deceiving customers into thinking that Platinum Jet was a licensed direct air carrier; and, most seriously, engaging in a “rent-a-certificate” arrangement “to circumvent licensing requirements.”
The consent order concluded: “We order Platinum Jet Management and all other entities owned and controlled by or under common ownership and control with Platinum Jet Management and their successors and assignees to cease and desist from further similar violations of [the applicable U.S. codes] 41301, 41703 and 41712.”
For its part, while agreeing to the terms of the consent order to avoid further litigation, Platinum Jet argued that the issues raised have nothing to do with the cause of the Teterboro accident.
The Bottom Line
The FAA has long held that compliance with regulations generally delivers better safety results. “The intent of Part 135 versus Part 91 is to protect the unknowing public,” said Gil Wolin, v-p of corporate communication at management firm TAG Aviation USA. “This is what the $2,000 rental certificate is about. It’s about revenue, not about safety.”
Joe Moeggenberg, president of charter auditor ARG/US, agreed that certificate rental is not unusual. “The FAA has acknowledged that’s a big problem,” he said.
Moeggenberg said that his company never rated Platinum Jet. As late as February 3 last year, broker BlueStarJets claimed on its Web site that it worked only with charter operators rated by auditors Wyvern, Qstar and ARG/US. The Web site no longer makes that claim.
Kelso, which requested the Teterboro flight, did not subscribe to ARG/US, Moeggenberg said, although anyone can buy a one-time view of ARG/US ratings. “If Kelso had run a trip check, it would have turned up red,” he said. “It would have clearly said there was a problem because we did not have the information on the first officer [whose medical had lapsed two days before the flight]. There were other issues that would have needed to be verified before it would have gone green.”
No one at AlphaJet, Kelso or BlueStarJets would comment for this article. Darby Aviation is an active Part 135 certificate holder and has a gold ARG/US rating.
AIN had planned to interview Brassington, but at a late stage he contacted AIN via e-mail, writing, “I will be unable to meet with you. I have been informed by my lead attorney that I will not be able to offer you the interview at this time due to my being a ‘party member’ to the investigation with the NTSB.”
One final note: the NTSB reports that during testing using Challenger 604 desktop simulator software with thrust limited to match that of the lower-powered Challenger 600, a Bombardier engineer tried to determine at what speed the nose of the accident Challenger would have lifted. Brassington believed that this simulation was not an accurate representation of the Challenger 600’s performance or configuration.
“The results of simulation show that for the accident conditions and at a scheduled Vr of 135 kias, the cg position was sufficiently forward to prevent aircraft rotation at the scheduled Vr,” the engineer stated. “Based upon the aircraft weight, cg and stabilizer setting of -4.2 degrees, the simulation shows that the aircraft would not have started to rotate until a speed between 170 and 154 kias at half and full elevator respectively. Based upon CVR [cockpit voice recorder] callout, a rejection speed of 158 kias is estimated, and a minimum accel-stop distance of 6,550 feet is required.” Teterboro’s Runway 06 is 6,013 feet long.