Wed, Jul 02, 2008
FAA Dismissed Claims VLJ Was Approved Despite Safety
The US Department of Transportation is riding its FAA division
pretty hard these days. The DOT's Inspector General has recently
issued reports highly critical of the FAA's handling of airline
maintenance enforcement and labor relations with its own
Now, USA Today cites Jim Berard, a spokesman for the House
Transportation Committee in Congress, in reporting another
investigation underway by the IG. This one reportedly involves
allegations that the FAA's certification of the Eclipse 500 very
light jet in 2006 came despite safety concerns raised by the
engineers and test pilots who evaluated the plane.
The allegations are not new. The National Air Traffic
Controllers Association, which also represents FAA aircraft
certification workers, filed a grievance in October 2006, alleging
"several outstanding safety/regulatory issues" with the EA500. The
grievance didn't mention specific issues with the plane, and was
denied by the FAA... which stands by its certification.
Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn says the 500 is in "complete and total
conformity" with federal regulations. He dismisses the complaint as
an internal FAA matter.
The investigation is the latest in a series of challenges faced
by Eclipse. Last month, a pilot executing an aborted landing at
Chicago Midway Airport jammed the engine thrust controls against
the stops hard enough to trigger a control system error, which
caused a temporary loss of thrust.
The pilot landed the plane safely, and Eclipse says it promptly
addressed the issue with other owners... but the National
Transportation Safety Board issued a press release days later which
dramatized the problem, and triggered many erroneous media reports
that the fleet had been ordered grounded.
The House Transportation Committee reportedly expects to hear
back from the DOT's Inspector General in a few weeks. NATCA says it
expects to take its grievance to arbitration.
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