The FAA has proposed that ERA Helicopters pay a civil penalty of $260,000 for operating a helicopter on Part 135 flights without complying with required post-maintenance checks and test flights. According to the agency’s penalty letter, sent to ERA on January 28, ERA operated Agusta AW139 N156JS for 23 passenger-carrying flights without accomplishing a required blade track and balance check following replacement of a rotor system lag damper. In addition to the track and balance check, the FAA believes that a flight test is required because “installation of a lag damper is a maintenance procedure that may appreciably alter the aircraft’s flight characteristics or substantially affect its operation in flight.”
The AW139 maintenance manual specifies that the track and balance check must be done if a lag damper is replaced, according to the FAA. And ERA’s Part 135 operations specifications “require that ERA conduct maintenance according to its manuals.”
The FAA’s penalty letter cites violations of FAR 43.13(a), performing maintenance “without using methods, techniques and practices prescribed in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or instructions for continued airworthiness”; 135.413(b)(1), “[ERA] as certificate holder failed to perform or make arrangement for the performance of maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alteration of its aircraft under the manual”; 91.407(b) “it carried a person other than a crewmember in an aircraft that had been maintained in a manner that may have appreciably altered the flight characteristics or substantially affected its operation in flight without an appropriately rated pilot making an operational flight check of the maintenance performed and logging the flight in the aircraft records”; and 119.5(l) “operated an aircraft under Part 135…in violation of the air carrier operating certificate…or appropriate operations specifications issued under Part 119.”
ERA did not respond to AIN’s request for a copy of the helicopter company’s response to the FAA by the time this issue went to press.