AMI Jet Appeals Emergency Suspension to NTSB

 - October 10, 2007, 12:17 PM

Last night, AMI Jet Charter submitted a petition for review to the NTSB’s law judges, asking for a stay of the FAA’s emergency suspension of AMI’s charter certificate. The FAA issued the emergency suspension on October 4, effectively shutting down the operation of the 79 airplanes on AMI’s charter certificate. This includes 48 airplanes managed by TAG Aviation USA, which owns 49 percent of AMI.

In its suspension notice, the FAA accused AMI of failing to demonstrate that six airplanes and their flight crews were in compliance with FAA Part 135 regulations for flights conducted on October 1 and 2. The compliance issues were that “AMI failed to produce or timely produce records related to pilot training, flight and duty and rest records, and weight and balance records,” according to the FAA. The FAA also accused AMI of having no knowledge that one of its aircraft was being flown on a charter flight on October 2.

In a declaration sent to the NTSB, AMI responded in detail to each of 38 paragraphs outlining what the FAA believes justifies its emergency suspension of AMI’s Part 135 certificate, including the above issues. AMI’s petition noted that on October 4 it provided all the flight activity logs requested by the FAA on October 2. “The sole delay was in providing the FAA with the requested documents on Oct. 4, 2007, two days after receipt of the FAA request; however, the FAA when it requested the documents did not specify a deadline and the records were provided prior to the completion of the inspection. Notably, nowhere in the emergency order does the FAA allege, nor can it, that pilot flight and duty rest requirements were exceeded…”

AMI said the allegation that it had no knowledge of one of the October 2 flights “is baseless.” AMI personnel provided FAA inspectors with the airplane’s itinerary, a trip sheet and discussed the flight plan with the inspectors, according to the petition. AMI believes the FAA’s allegations in this instance stem from the inability of an employee at AMI’s Burlingame, Calif. headquarters to locate the airplane on the Flight Explorer tracking system. “FAA regulations concerning flight locating are satisfied when the operator files an FAA flight plan, as AMI did, and AMI is not required to contemporaneously track the flight. For the FAA to glibly allege, contrary to all the facts and documentation it was provided, that AMI ’had no knowledge’ that the flight was being operated is simply false.”

The FAA’s allegations in the suspension notice are “baseless, exaggerated or misleading,” according to AMI. And ultimately, the issue of suspending AMI’s charter certificate on an emergency basis by claiming that there is a safety risk to the public is not supported by the facts, according to the company. AMI said that it has tried to work closely with the FAA on operational control issues and has made many changes to ensure that it is fully compliant with the latest A008 OpSpec. The charter firm has never had an accident in its nine years of operation and has always cooperated with the FAA, it noted. “Missing from the FAA’s efforts to justify an emergency is any evidence of unsafe operations by AMI. The evidence is to the contrary.”

AMI recognizes that the petition to the NTSB is not guaranteed to produce the desired result. The FAA can argue that the NTSB doesn’t have to take AMI’s petition into consideration because the applicable regulations allow the Safety Board to “assume the truth of the FAA’s allegations in reviewing an emergency determination…” Nevertheless, AMI’s petition asks the NTSB to allow AMI to have “a meaningful opportunity to contest the FAA’s emergency determination by submitting evidence which contests the allegations which form the basis of the purported emergency, and by having such evidence fully considered by the NTSB as part of its review.”

The alternative is that AMI will have to close and its 300 employees will be out of work, even if the suspension lasts for just 60 days. “Restoration of AMI’s certificate after a hearing on the merits will come too late to preserve AMI’s business,” AMI concluded.