The FAA is not formally investigating a ramp accident that took place September 20 at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, during which an unattended Falcon 900EX rolled through the airport fence and onto Tropicana Avenue.
Falcon N900Q was sitting on the ramp near Atlantic Aviation, according to an FAA spokesman, and the pilots were preparing to depart. The owner of the airplane called the pilots and said he had decided not to leave and would be spending the night in Las Vegas. “So the crew closed the door and went home,” the spokesman said. “They didn’t chock it or set the parking brake, and it took its little journey.”
According to local news reports, as the Falcon rolled onto Tropicana Avenue, a taxi swerved to avoid the airplane, causing a three-car accident that sent one cab driver to the hospital.
Airport emergency personnel responded to the scene, and the airport temporarily limited Runway 19R to departures, according to an airport spokeswoman. Technicians arrived and defueled the Falcon, then used a crane to hoist it onto the Atlantic Aviation ramp. At about 11 p.m., security personnel were assigned to guard the open fence, and the fence was repaired the following day.
“We never opened a formal investigation,” said the FAA spokesman. “It’s really just a simple ground mishap; it didn’t rise to the level of careless and reckless operation. There’s no rule that says you have to chock your airplane or set the parking brake.”
A Falcon pilot told AIN that his company’s standard operating procedures for securing the airplane ensure that chocks are in place when line personnel ask that the parking brake not be set. If the chocks have been removed for flight and the flight is canceled, he added, “Someone needs to replace the chocks before releasing the parking brake. If I am told to release the parking brake, I ask if we are chocked or will verify with the other crewmember that we are chocked.”
According to the FAA Registry, N900Q is owned by TP Aviation. Jet Aviation manages the Falcon for its owners and in a statement said, “The aircraft had been secured by the pilots after a trip had been cancelled, and prior to the aircraft’s being moved by Atlantic Aviation, the aircraft rolled out of its parking position.
“Damage to the aircraft was limited to components that could be removed and replaced, and there was no structural damage. The aircraft was placed in an airworthy condition at LAS and then moved under a ferry permit to Jet Aviation’s Midcoast Aviation, St. Louis facilities for final repairs and has been returned to service.”
AIN has learned that the Falcon’s nosewheel steering linkage might have been disconnected before the runaway rolling incident, which would be normal procedure for towing the jet. Jet Aviation was unable to confirm that information, and a company spokeswoman told AIN, “Since this is an active, ongoing investigation, Jet cannot respond in any more detail at this time.”
Asked whether the FAA inspector who responded to the incident noticed the status of the Falcon’s nosewheel steering linkage, the FAA spokesman responded, “Our inspector who went to the scene told me he didn’t see the thing disconnected.”