FAA Halts Operation of Rhoades Aviation/Transair

 - July 17, 2021, 12:35 PM
The nose of the Transair 737-200, which broke apart after ditching into the ocean following engine problems on July 2 near Oahu, Hawaii, lies on the sea floor. (Photo: NTSB)

The FAA has taken action to prevent Rhoades Aviation, which operates Transair flights, from “flying or conducting maintenance inspections.” The move effectively grounds Transair, which was involved in an accident on July 2 when Flight 810, an all-cargo Boeing 737-200, suffered engine trouble shortly after departing Honolulu International Airport and ditched off the coast of Oahu in Mamala Bay. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the two flight crewmembers shortly after the crash.

In a statement, the FAA said Rhoades Aviation hadn't complied with federal aviation regulations and had been under investigation since fall 2020. On June 13, the FAA notified the company that it identified deficiencies as part of the investigation and would rescind the operator's authority to conduct maintenance inspections. Rhoades failed to ask the agency to reconsider the decision within the prescribed 30-day period and so lost its maintenance authority at midnight Thursday. Without such authority, the FAA noted in its statement, the carrier also cannot legally operate.

But this was not the first time that the accident airplane, N810TA, experienced engine failure. According to the FAA's Service Difficulty Reports database, on April 8, 2018, the company reported that the aircraft’s No. 1 engine failed during takeoff. In its description of the problem, Transair stated, “got 3 backfiring [sic] before engine shutdown…” Inspectors later removed the engine's fuel pump and found it to have a broken shaft. About nine months later, on Jan. 30, 2019, the company reported another failure of N810TA's No. 1 engine. The description of that problem was less detailed, noting only that “NR 1 engine fail at around 2000 [feet]. On final performed engine failure/shutdown checklist…”

The two engines did not carry the same serial number. Further, in the 2018 failure, the engine had accumulated 23,657 hours total time and 35,753 total cycles, while in the 2019 failure the engine had 71,706 total hours and 67,194 total cycles. Authorities have not yet released the serial numbers of the engines used during Flight 810, but the flight crew did report the loss of an engine to Honolulu tower shortly after takeoff, and data from FlightAware shows it did not climb above 2,100 feet. A few minutes later, while attempting to return to the airport, the crew announced the second engine was overheating and likely to fail as well. The aircraft subsequently ditched in Mamala Bay.

Last week, the NTSB released photographs of the wreckage, which lay in pieces on the seafloor between 360 and 420 feet deep. A preliminary report on the accident is pending.