Avantair Grounds Entire Fleet for Safety Checks

 - October 23, 2012, 3:45 PM

On Saturday, fractional provider Avantair grounded its entire fleet of about 60 Piaggio Avanti twin turboprops to conduct “a comprehensive examination of all maintenance records and aircraft.” According to industry sources, the action stemmed from an incident earlier this year in which an Avantair Avanti shed an elevator in flight.

“This action is voluntary and involves the temporary stand-down of [our] aircraft,” Avantair said in a statement. “To date, of the aircraft in the fleet that have been inspected, there have been no compliance or airworthiness issues. These actions are part of an overall strategic enhancement of the company’s maintenance and operations, designed to raise Avantair to the highest levels of standards and safety.”

As of today, about 40 of Avantair’s airplanes were back in service after the inspections, and the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company expects to have its entire fleet flying again by Thursday. While its fleet was grounded, Avantair outsourced trips to third-party charter operators or, in some instances, told customers it was unable to conduct their flights, a spokesman told AIN.

“Safety is Avantair’s top priority. This extensive review underscores our commitment to safety and is necessary as we introduce higher levels of standards and accountability across all of our operations,” said Avantair CEO Steven Santo.

Comments

Comfort Eagle's picture

It was ground the fleet for inspection or get shutdown my the FAA

Chad Trautvetter's picture

An FAA spokeswoman told me that the grounding was not initiated by the agency, so I’m not sure where you got this information. Please specify the source for your statement.

Arden's picture

A CEO and board that has taekn this company into a downward spiral...ouot of business in 3 months...nice stock price!!

Comfort Eagle's picture

I work there

Don's picture

I'm a fractional owner and the first I heard about this fleet grounding was 11pm last night when I got an email from owner services saying my flights for this morning at 9am and return tomorrow were cancelled. Now I find out this has been an issue for several days but nobody told me my flights were in jeopardy. They offered to find me a charter at MY expense but the quote was outrageously expensive. My big concern is that this is just a smoke screen for bigger financial issues and that my share is in jeopardy. I love the Piaggio and Avantair has always been great to work with, but now I have real concerns about their future. I am disappointed that there has been no communication out to the owners about this grounding and if you go to their website it doesn't mention anything and it looks like business as usual. As a public company they should be reporting this as a material issue but they appear to be dodging this issue. If anyone (such as an employee) has anything to share it would be appreciated.

Comfort Eagle's picture

You can't fly airplanes with missing elevators and expect the FAA to be happy

Comfort Eagle's picture

Correction....worked

Mandarin Jet's picture

A most serious maintenance error especially since the elevator installation work would have required a RII type (double) inspection. In other words two failures and occured.

Furthermore, the required pilot aircraft walkaround or preflight check of the P180 at San Diego before departure to Nevada, could not have missed the absent elevator that had fallen off before arrival, if in fact the preflight had been accomplished at all.

Mandarin Jet's picture

A most serious maintenance error especially since the elevator installation work would have required a RII type (double) inspection. In other words two failures and occured.

Furthermore, the required pilot aircraft walkaround or preflight check of the P180 at San Diego before departure to Nevada, could not have missed the absent elevator that had fallen off before arrival, if in fact the preflight had been accomplished at all.

Mandarin Jet's picture

A most serious maintenance error especially since the elevator installation work would have required a RII type (double) inspection. In other words two failures and occured.

Furthermore, the required pilot aircraft walkaround or preflight check of the P180 at San Diego before departure to Nevada, could not have missed the absent elevator that had fallen off before arrival, if in fact the preflight had been accomplished at all.

Don's picture

I am a fractional owner and the first I heard about this grounding was at 11pm last night when they sent me an email saying my flight for this morning was cancelled. Now I find out this has been an issue for several days but they have not sent out any communications to the owners mentioning this issue, nor is it mentioned on their website. They offered to find me a charter at MY EXPENSE, which just isn't right. I love the Piaggio and Avantair has always been great to work with, but now I am concerned about my share and their financial situation. My trip has been scheduled for several days so I am perplexed on why they waited until 11pm the night before my trip to tell me about this issue. They are a public company and having your fleet grounded is a material issue yet they are not disclosing this issue as far as I can tell. If anyone has any insight please share it. Thank you!

Bill's picture

Don, sorry about your situation and lack of communication. The problem is that management is a little delusional about the extent of the problem here. They are completely disconnected from operations and maintenance and some in the operation would argue 'reality' should be added to that list. There are more problems than I can fit on this post, but one of the first problems is that these airplanes are flying 2-3 times the hours that Piaggio ever envisioned they would or designed them for. The company simply does not have the capacity to handle the demand and corners have been seriously cut to try to cover that demand with inadequate resources. Pilots are being pushed to the extreme limits of duty time and rest and general morale simply could not be lower company-wide. Everyone at the company expects to be unemployed very soon. Ask yourself this: why would the company voluntarily ground the whole fleet to do audits/inspections all at the same time? Why wouldn't they do it maybe 5 aircraft at a time? It's because they MUST do it. Avantair and the FAA may call it voluntary, but it's all semantics. If Avantair doesn't do this, FAA will shut them down. Today's grounding is the 4th time in 2 weeks they have grounded the fleet, but the previous times they had slowly returned airplanes to service. Although never anywhere near 40 in the last two weeks have been in service. It's been 4-18 at most. But this time no airplanes will return to service until next week, if ever.

Bill's picture

This story is already out of date, as of today, 10/25/12, the entire is fleet is grounded for the foreseeable future. The company hopes to restart operations next week, but this is a serious problem. Operationally this company is in big trouble.

Blankity 's picture

I can't speak for the maintenance personnel involved in this, but I know that the pilot and co-pilot were both fired for failure to perform a pre-flight check.

P180's picture

The co-pilot was not fired. I flew with him last month.

Don's picture

Bill, I appreciate the info and your honest evaluation. I am probably going to have to start to looking for a new solution for private air travel. We owned a King Air 200 several years ago in partnership with another company which was great except the other company ran into trouble and couldn't pay their half. Fortunately that was in 2007 and we sold it right before the crash. I picked up the Avantair share as a resale through a vendor and paid a lot less then what it would have cost to buy it directly from the company, so at least I'm invested at a much lower number. I still can't believe they are not making this issue public. Sounds like they are on life support and being read their last rights.

AAIR insider's picture

There is a lot owners don't know and it is shocking.

AAIR insider's picture

The P180s have a lot of maintenance issues because they are flown to airliner annual times when the planes were only made for a few hundred hours a year with private owners. A lot of the airplane have recurring maintenance problems that just get put off until something really breaks and the airplane is grounded. Avantair loves the use of an ops check where the the crew tries to recreate the issue once and the maintenance department ignores it even after repeat issues with that same problem day after day. Then there are the issues with inflight engine shutdowns that happen way early of the engine manufacture time frames. Management is out for their gain and don't care for the customers, after all it is the customers who legally own the airplanes, not the company. If the fleet was grounded last saturday then why were pilots sent out assignments to fly?

RMR's picture

So last saturday I was scheduled to fly from Dallas to Las Vegas at noon. At 10:30 I was contacted and told that my flight had been cancelled, and that they would be looking at both charter and commercial flights at their expense. They "couldn’t" find a charter in time (by 2pm as I had to be back), so they put me on American Airlines. I was told my aircraft was on extended maintenance (whatever that meant, now I know).

Really thinking nothing of it, I booked a flight from LAS to Orange COunty Ca today (coming back tomorrow). I got an email at about 10:30 last night saying cancelled for the reasons stated in this email, with the same offer to find me a charter ay my expense.

I started looking at commercial flights, figuring SWA flies there and it would be inexpensive anyway. Well, pretty much all sold out.

So I took them up on their offer to find me a charter flight. When I did, I asked about why I was paying for it, and was told "Well we usually do, but this time we were instructed otherwise."

That said, they never even sent me a quote, which I got elsewhere for a king air (and a Lear 55, I am taking the King Air).
Oh, and "coincidentally" perhaps, I got an email request for some documents that they were missing from my file yesterday, which I sent over. I suspect, that they may be going over all documents now for a variety of reasons.

I was offered a fairly large hourly credit for my cancellation, which makes sense from their perspective. Cash is cash, and paying another charter company would sink cash. A flight credit has very little value unless and until we fly again.

Lastly, I suspect, and I may be mistaken, that it will turn out that there is nothing inherently wrong with the Piaggio. But that there are some management issues. In any event, they are going to be fighting an uphill battle, as each day that passes is going to cause people to want to cancel there "membership."

I know from my perspective, it was going to be close as to whether I was going to use my minimum hours this year (even after being able to roll some to next year). Now it will be impossible, since I cant even book my last few trips of the year, because I have no idea if we will be flying. Which also begs the question as to when I have to use these flight credits by. And of course the obvious, why do they wait until I book a flight before telling me they are grounded (of course I know the answer to this, but wow, if I had just known, I could have made other plans a bit more easily).

So to Don, you dont happen to live in Vegas do you? If Avantair does not make it through this we could probably partner of a cheap Piaggio.

Don's picture

RMR, I'm in Jacksonville Florida but I am going so start looking for a partner or two to buy something together. Several years ago I shared a King Air 200 with another company which was great until the partner got into financial trouble and couldn't pay their half. Luckily it was 2007 and we sold it just before the crash. If anyone in North Florida is interested let me know. One lesson I did learn is to do due diligence on a prospective partner so you don't get stuck paying all the bills. Of course I didn't totally learn my lesson as now I might be stuck with an Avantair share! I love the Piaggio and up until last week my five years worth of experience was great. Everyone at Owner Services couldn't have been nicer and the vast majority of the pilots were courteous and very professional, and I had zero complaints with them. I HOPE they make it but I'm already making plans for other options. I know if they fold up its going to be a fiasco as technically we each own a piece of these airplanes so we have a bunch of partners that we don't even know. One smart thing I did do was I bought my share as a resale thru a vendor and paid a whole lot less then I would have if I bought straight from Avantair. Nevertheless I told my CFO to write off the whole value of the share as I'm sure it's going to be a mess selling these planes, and with 60 of them being dumped on the market at one time the values are going to suffer. Don

Mandarin Jet's picture

Comments since yesterday, Oct. 25, seem oblivious to the safety of flight issues.

The Nov. 16, 2011 engine failure and emergency landing at Flint, MI and veering off the runway and flipping on its back (all 4 occupants suffered minor injuries) shows pilot poor skills for sure and serious concern about engine maintenance.

After two major incidents/accidents in eight months are not all fractional owners, their employees and their families scared to hell for their own safety???

Boogie woogie's picture

Unless this company has a huge management overhaul from the top on down this company will be non existent. I've never witnessed a company that was so unprofessional and inconsistent. With all of these maitenence issues and issues regarding fudging pilot hours so they would be legal is scary.
As an owner I would think twice about renewing my contract and go with a company who cares about its customers safety, including employees. What's done in the dark always comes to light.

April's picture

My husband works for Avant and is currently wondering what's happening as well
He's been flying for 10 years and is available for piaggio owners
Contact me at Atomicapril @ gmail.com. His record is pristine and out of Vegas

April's picture

PS Albany has treated him so bad. The hours they slave him out for is shameful
He comes home so exhausted and disappointed to the point he's just plain depressed

He loves flying. He was up for a 10k raise after gaining seniority and they cut his pay the DAY before he was supposed to get the raise

Disgraceful!!!!

Rmr's picture

Hah, you think the owners don't care about safety? Of course we do. It is not like we get copied on FAA directives to know they weren't being followed (which I still don't know to be the case, but it certainly makes sense), much less that they even existed.

That said both the plane and the company have been reliable for me for about 7 years. I just read about the one that flipped, but understand, it is only this issue that has me looking at ntsb reports, it is not something most fractional owners do before every flight.

Ok ok we can split a G200. Better :)

Mandarin Jet's picture

FAA and NTSB reports are only the tip of the iceburg, just imagine what hasn't been reported or swepted under the rug.

David's picture

RMR, if you are in Vegas, have you looked at AirSprint as an alternative?

Donald Norris's picture

I have only been an owner for a short time but the flights I have taken have been flawless;The pilots seemed happy and very professional. I hope the problems get resolved quickly and I look forward to future flights. Don

piaggiodriver's picture

I think that it should be obvious to everyone here that comments by Mandarin Jet and a few others should be taken with a grain of salt. If not pilots for a direct competitor that would benefit from a VNR no longer there, I would guess that they might be disgruntled former employees filtered out by VNR's well-known tough training program.

To begin, VNR has been a great place to work for many furloughed and retired former airline pilots. Our diverse pilot group includes Air Force Academy graduates, US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, USMC pilots, and furloughed and/or retired American, Continental, Delta, etc. pilots. We have graduates from Embry-Riddle, Purdue, UND, Parks College, etc., some of the most respected aviation schools in the world. Avantair has been an excellent place for many of us former FAR 121 pilots, with a lifestyle good enough that many of us do not want or

Piaggio Pilot's picture

There are 2 ex-Avantair pilots based in Colorado who left Avantair for obvious reasons. We would be more than happy to speak with any Colorado based owners who might be looking for an experienced Piaggio crew. Please contact me at the e-mail address below if you are interested. (Please expect us to be bashed by current Avantiar employees. They are understandably bitter and we don't blame them.)

colorado_kyle@hotmail.com

piaggiodriver's picture

....intend to return to the 121 world. Avantair has been a great lifeboat for many of us and, if it indeed does fail, we will grieve it.

I know both crews involved in the Flint, MI and the elevator incident. Both crews included experienced professionals that could have easily been flying somewhere else. In the Flint incident, LISTEN TO THE ATC tapes! The pilots had secured an engine and were having orientation issues due to instrumentation failures. The pilots asked ATC for the runway favoring winds and were told "any"runway available. The crew brought a crippled aircraft safely to the runway, but departed the runway with the crosswind condition. They caught a wing and oveturned, but everyone was safe. The owners got into another Piaggio and flew again. If this had happened at a big passenger airline, they would have been lauded for getting the aircraft to the runway. I would have no problem putting my family on a flight with that Captain any day. But, I'm sure that you could have done much better. Mandarin..

Piaggio Pilot's picture

There are 2 ex-Avantair pilots based in Colorado who left Avantair for obvious reasons. We would be more than happy to speak with any Colorado based owners who might be looking for an experienced Piaggio crew. Please contact me at the e-mail address below if you are interested. (Please expect us to be bashed by current Avantiar employees. They are understandably bitter and we don't blame them.)

Chad Trautvetter's picture

Advertising of any kind is not allowed in our comments section. I’ve removed Kyle’s email address above since this is not a pilot placement service, and I’ve also deleted a charter company’s post trolling for business from Avantair customers.

piaggiodriver's picture

As far as the crew that experienced the elevator loss, now you will hear the rest of the story.. Due to low ceilings at the destination airport, the crew diverted to the alternate, SAN. Arriving at the FBO there, the crew were shocked to find the owner and his colleague outside the FBO, on the ramp, unsupervised, waiting for the aircraft to arrive. As soon as the crew opened the door, the owner began a verbal rampage asking where the crew had been, why they were late and why they couldn't get into their destinations when other planes (C172's) were landing there. When the crew tried to explain that MYF was below approach minimus due to the CAT B limitation, the owner used abusive language and accused them of lying. My friend, the Captain, requested the FO remain with the passengers, who continued their verbal tirade as the Captain DID complete a postflight, although abbreviated under duress. Yes, the Captain, a mere mortal and an infallible being, DID miss the elevator on his post flight inspection. But it was not his fault that it

M C Bick's picture

I am under a recent lease agreement. I love the plane and at first the service was fine. However, lately the service sucks and now this. How do I get out of my lease and is there an opportunity for owners to get together to take action?

M C Bick's picture

I am under a recent lease agreement. I love the plane and at first the service was fine. However, lately the service sucks and now this. How do I get out of my lease and is there an opportunity for owners to get together to take action?

piaggiodriver's picture

As far as the crew that experienced the elevator loss, now you will hear the rest of the story.. Due to low ceilings at the destination airport, the crew diverted to the alternate, SAN. Arriving at the FBO there, the crew were shocked to find the owner and his colleague outside the FBO, on the ramp, unsupervised, waiting for the aircraft to arrive. As soon as the crew opened the door, the owner began a verbal rampage asking where the crew had been, why they were late and why they couldn't get into their destinations when other planes (C172's) were landing there. When the crew tried to explain that MYF was below approach minimus due to the CAT B limitation, the owner used abusive language and accused them of lying. My friend, the Captain, requested the FO remain with the passengers, who continued their verbal tirade as the Captain DID complete a postflight, although abbreviated under duress. Yes, the Captain, a mere mortal and an infallible being, DID miss the elevator on his post flight inspection. But it was not his fault that it

piaggiodriver's picture

As far as the crew that experienced the elevator loss, now you will hear the rest of the story.. Due to low ceilings at the destination airport, the crew diverted to the alternate, SAN. Arriving at the FBO there, the crew were shocked to find the owner and his colleague outside the FBO, on the ramp, unsupervised, waiting for the aircraft to arrive. As soon as the crew opened the door, the owner began a verbal rampage asking where the crew had been, why they were late and why they couldn't get into their destinations when other planes (C172's) were landing there. When the crew explained that MYF was below approach minimus due to the CAT B limitation, the owner used abusive language and accused them of lying. My friend, the Captain, requested the FO remain with the passengers, who continued their verbal tirade as the Captain DID complete a postflight, although abbreviated under duress. Yes, the Captain, a mere mortal and an infallible being, DID miss the elevator on his post flight inspection. But it was not his fault that it

piaggiodriver's picture

departed the aircraft. Had Chuck Yeager and Sully Sullenburger, himself, flown the aircraft, the result would have been the same. Had this been a 121 flight, the Captain could have had the passengers detained for interfering with a flight crew and stomping out on the supposedly "secured" ramp, but this isn't 121. Yes, the Captain was terminated and we lost a good pilot. Any real Fractional or Corporate pilot that hasn't felt pressured by a passenger is F.O.S. Did the Captain make a huge mistake doing a fast post flight after a butt-chewing from an owner? Yes. Could it happen to anyone else? Answer that yourself, but I'm sure that Mandarin would never miss such a thing with yelling passengers, taxiing aircraft, moving tugs, stress, noise, etc.. I'm not saying that maintenance or pilots did not make mistakes, but it helps to know the entire story before a rush to judgement.

piaggiodriver's picture

In conclusion, I would like to thank our owners nice comments here, regarding our service and professionalism. The professional pilots at Avantair greatly appreciate our owners support and contribution to our careers and livelihoods. I would especially reach out to Mr. Norris and others and hope that we will be able to serve you again in the future. If not, we hope that you find safe, efficient, and cost-effective travel options in the future.

Avantair and the Avanti have tremendous potential, if we make it. Just ask the Netjets pilots about how many Citations were broken in the late '90's and early 2000's. Then, Cessna built a tougher Citation which you see today - more ready for fractional use. Piaggio can do it, too. But it didn't help in the fact VNR was born in the Decade from hell. While things have been dreary throughout the aviation industry for the past 5 years, Avantair was the only fractional airline that did not furlough or terminate pilots due to staffing reductions. In fact, Avantair hired and added airplanes during the Great Recession. So to say that all is negative is wildly incorrect.

And while I have spoken mainly about our pilots, I would like to commend my fellow employees, especially maintenance, in the other departments. They have made a challenging job fun and did their best to service our Owners and fellow employees. We are not infallible, and mistakes have definitely been made, but we do not deserve the acrid bile from those on this board who have obvious agendas and would celebrate our downfall. This is a place worth fighting for and we will hope for the best. Whatever the outcome, it was and is an honor and a blast to serve our Owners and work with my fellow VNR employees. Viva VNR!

Avantairpilot's picture

Anyone interested in the truth can re-read Piaggio drivers 4 part post. It was spot on. I for one an very hopeful this whole episode will be behind us soon and that the company becomes gets stronger.

Chad Trautvetter's picture

This press release was issued by Avantair late last night:

AVANTAIR UPDATE ON VOLUNTARY STAND-DOWN OF OPERATIONS

CLEARWATER, Fla. – October 25, 2012 — Avantair, Inc. (OTCBB: AAIR), today announced the company is continuing to stand down operations and engaging top aviation experts to help complete a thorough examination of its fleet of nearly 60 Piaggio Avanti aircraft, and a comprehensive review of records and supporting maintenance documentation. The voluntary action is being taken in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“For the past week, we have been undertaking extensive inspections of our fleet and our operating procedures. These inspections and other actions are still underway. But this further action is necessary to ensure every aspect of our operation will allow us to reach the next level of safety and performance and exceed the highest industry standard,” said Steven Santo, Avantair CEO.

“We are enhancing our maintenance and operational infrastructure so that it surpasses every standard that applies to the aircraft we fly. With our new processes and procedures, Avantair will satisfy the heightened requirements governing the largest aircraft types in our industry. When we resume operations, we will have the most reliable fleet in our industry embracing the highest standards in aviation,” said Mr. Santo.

Avantair has retained safety expert Nick Sabatini to oversee the project. Mr. Sabatini previously was the top career official at the FAA.

“We know this is an extremely difficult period for our loyal employees and frustrating to our devoted owners,” said Mr. Santo. “We are grateful for their understanding and patience as we work through this important process. We are confident we are laying the groundwork necessary to offer outstanding service and reliability going forward.”

Bill's picture

Chad,
Where did you get this press release? The one posted under SEC filings on www.avantair.com shows a sentence between the last and next to last sentences that is missing from your release.

Here is the sentence:
During the stand-down, Avantair will furlough some employees.

source:
http://www.avantair.com/filings.html

Chad Trautvetter's picture

Bill,

Thanks for point that out. The release I posted above came directly from Avantair media relations. I didn’t alter it in any way – I just cut and pasted what they sent me.

Piaggio Pilot's picture

Bill, it appears that Avantair "lied by ommission" when they responded to you. They have a history of lying. Furloughs.......too bad.

Chad Trautvetter's picture

Now, on to the rumors about the FAA pulling Avantair’s certificate. Let me be clear here and confirm that they are just rumors. Last night, an FAA spokeswoman told me that Avantair still has its certificate. Earlier, she also confirmed that Avantair’s grounding was indeed voluntary and not mandated by the FAA.

Truth's picture

@piaggiodriver, it's ok to be proud of working at a company but avantair treats its employees horribly. No furloughs or termination?? You need to check your facts pal, they offered voluntary leaves to avoid furlough up until recently a handful of people have been fired for the slightest error in judgement. Companies in trouble do this to avoid the panic of "furlough" status. You know get them off the insurance roll. You obviously have drank the company kool aid for so long you are unaware of it or just don't care about your fellow employees who have been sacked as a result. Your management sucks! It is by far the worst disorganized fractional and needs a miracle of improvement. Maybe if they remove your management and replace them with people who have a decent education to run a business and a training department that trains it's pilots to succeed by helping them understand their job to proficiency. That is a sign of a company that cares about its pilots. I have knowledge of quite the contrary. Stay tuned.

Piaggio Pilot's picture

The original $5.00 stock traded at .11 cents today, a loss of 98% of its value. Merry Christmas, kool-aid drinkers.

M C Bick's picture

I am under a recent lease agreement. I love the plane and at first the service was fine. However, lately the service sucks and now this. How do I get out of my lease and is there an opportunity for owners to get together to take action?

CFOC's picture

So happy I left this rag tag joint when I did!

I still recall going into one of the back hangers and see MX personal taking parts off of other P180s and putting them on other P180s.

Ask about it and was told they didn't want to buy replacement parts. I found a new job about 4 weeks later!

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