A former director of maintenance for now-defunct fractional provider Avantair pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida, to obstructing a federal accident investigation after the July 28, 2012 in-flight loss of an elevator from one of the company’s Piaggio P.180 Avantis near Camarillo, California. David Ernest Esteves admitted to intentionally hindering the NTSB and FAA investigations by instructing a contractor to remove parts from the aircraft involved after the incident and then power the airplane up, thereby erasing the cockpit voice recordings.
According to court documents, while en route to San Diego, the twin turboprop lost its left elevator, yet the flight landed, picked up passengers and continued to Henderson, Nevada. During that leg, the captain noticed problems and called Avantair operations, which was recorded on the Piaggio’s cockpit voice recorder. After the flight landed in Henderson, and before the arrival of NTSB and FAA investigators, Esteves ordered a third-party contractor to remove the loose nuts and bolts on the right elevator on the quarantined aircraft to prevent them from being examined, and then power the turboprop up, which the contractor refused to do.
Under the plea agreement, Esteves is subject to a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of probation.