FAA Indicts Two for Falsifying Aircraft Inspection

 - January 25, 2012, 2:30 PM

A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court of Jacksonville, Fla., has indicted Franklin Williams and Stacy Willis on three counts of fraud involving aircraft and space vehicle parts in interstate commerce and one count of smuggling goods from the U.S. The aircraft, a Piper PA-32R-301T, was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and written off as a total loss. According to the indictment, an unidentified Brazilian national purchased the Piper from a salvage company in 2008 and arranged for Williams to have it exported to Brazil. Before the aircraft reached Brazil, the FAA coordinated with the U.S. Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection and requested to inspect the aircraft. It was returned to the Port of Jacksonville, inspected and deemed unairworthy. The investigation revealed that Williams, a certified FAA airframe and powerplant mechanic with Inspection Authorization and an FAA designated airworthiness representative, conspired with Willis, also an FAA A&P mechanic, to falsify an annual inspection and maintenance record entries for the engine and propeller so Williams could issue an FAA Export Certificate of Airworthiness. A trial date has not been scheduled. AIN’s attempts to locate Williams and Willis for comment were unsuccessful.

Comments

Harold Coghlan's picture

Hello David,

I read with interest the news article on AINMx about the two individuals that the FAA indicted for apparently falsifying the maintenance records in order to export the plane to Brazil.

What I find so dishonest about this action, is that the FAA is so bad about applying their investigative and prosecutorial powers in an even and equitable manner. (After all, it should be all about the “safety” and how to make it better).

I totally agree with the FAA that if in fact these two individuals fabricated the MX logbooks (that will be seen as the case moves forward), they need to be tried and if found guilty, they need to be punished and made an example of to others, as a deterrant and a way to ensure future compliance with safety regs. What astonishes me is at the fact that they (the FAA and the DOT/OIG) have spent all kinds of effort, manhours and dollars to pursue this particular “possibility of mx falsification”, while at the same time they collectively have overlooked many other clear cases of mx falsification!

For example, one case that comes to mind is near and dear to my heart. I had a PT6A engine in a King Air that suffered an unexplicable temperature increase during normal operations, as evidenced by our daily trend monitoring. As a military trained test pilot, this was unacceptable, and I had the engine split and inspected by a Factory Service Center. The Service Center found that the previous engine service done less than 555 hours earlier, a Hot Section inspection, was either done incorrectly (since they left the Inconel safety wire that secures the CT Turbine Wheel bolts) and the records were falsified (to indicate compliance), or the facility never did do the HSI and simply signed off the books as if it had. The facility that had done the previous HSI (the incorrect or falsified one) was Smedley Enterprises, dba Pro-Turbine, a small one man shop owned and ran by Mr. Robert Smedley, a mechanic known to the FAA as a person who had a history of shoddy engine work, and is till today the only person to my knowledge who can lay claim to have an engine Airworthiness Directive (AD) named after them! The bad part is that the airplane had the improper Hot Section done at the time by the previous owners, Dodson Aviation, who participated in the engine split and reinstallation, and who should have seen that the PT6 engine being returned for service was either not maintained in accordance with the Factory Manuals (since the safety wires for the CT bolts were left off), or the HSI was simply not done. Either way, there was a severe case of maintenance logbook fabrication (or falsification) on the part of the aircraft owners (Dodson Aviation) and the one man cheap engine shop (Robert Smedley and Smedley Enterprises).

It appeared from the little wear on certain components that the HSI may have been done, but done improperly. The records were still falsified, since the Inconel wire (which is required by PW) is a requirement to secure the CT wheel bolts, and the log entry stated “all requirements were complied”. (see attached Engine log page).

Both the Factory Service Center verified that the maintenance was in fact done improperly, that the required Inconnel safety wire had been left out of the CT wheel bolts, as well as a local FAA FSDO Inspector verified this case of improper maintenance and falsification. This FAA Inspector wrote a very detailed Enforcement Investigation report (EIR) recommending that FAA Legal take action to pursue revocation of the engine shop IA (Mr. Smedley) that had signed off the HSI without the critical required Inconnel wire installed, while simultaneously falsifying the maintenance records as if “all requirements had been complied with” .

What is appalling to me is that the FAA Southern Region Legal Office, having the clear and unmistakle documentation from pratt and Whitney and the FSDO Inspector that an incident of mx falsification had taken place, never, never pursued any punishment or revocation, much less a Criminal Indictment (well deserved by the way) for this person. This person, Mr. Smedley, was apparently famous in Arkansas for doing shoddy engine mx ("the home of the 2000 dollar Hot Section"). If the engine had completely come apart on me during a takeoff in the mountains of West Virginia or Colorado, because the bolts that secure the CT wheel had come off completely (several had come off already) there may have been a fatal crash, and yet, the FAA never pursued it.Why?

How can the FAA Legal Dept and DOT/OIG in honesty pursue two guys that falsified one record, and yet fail to pursue another individual that clearly had falsified some or all of the required mx? Especially after an FAA Inspector had already done all the hard work to verify that the falsification had occurred by Smedley Enterprises, had pictures, and all sorts of evidence? The FAA would not have needed to intercept the evidence before if departed the country, it was sitting in their desk, with pictures and all!

I am just glad the military trained me well, and I decided to be proactive and inspect the engine when a minor temperature difference cropped up during engine trend monitoring. But I am very dissapointed at the FAA's uneven application of justice. They appear to pursue not real justice, but rather whatever whim they feel like doing at any given time.

Thanks for the AINMx reports, I read them religiously!

Harold A. Coghlan

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