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When a Plane Crash Isn't a Plane Crash But Could Be

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Billings, MTWhen is a plane crash not a plane crash? When the plane crash didn't happen—but could have. By the grace of God and luck, a 19-passenger plane with an issue affecting the right engine was allowed to make 80 flights while the engine was still in need of repair.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on the airplane crash that (thankfully) wasn't an airplane crash on October 15th. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed on October 13th that a feeder airline doing business as Corporate Air should be fined $455,000 for allowing the flights in spite of needed repairs.

Specifically a Beech 1900C twin-engine turboprop plane with a capacity for 19 passengers was plagued by excessive oil loss in the right engine. The FAA report revealed that mechanics routinely kept adding oil following the landing of the plane, in spite of explicit directions in the engine manufacturer's service manual to make repairs as needed.

The plane is reported to have made 80 flights with passengers while the right engine remained compromised with the oil problem. It is feared that the failure of the compromised engine while in flight could have caused a catastrophic Airplane Accident.

Corporate Air is based in Billings, Montana, and is reported to schedule flights in Montana, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and eight other states. It was reported that Corporate Air also operates aircraft repair and maintenance facilities numbering six.

"The safety of the passengers and crew must be the top priority for any operator," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. "All operators must comply with maintenance requirements."

In a related story, the FAA also came down hard on the owner of a California parachute-jumping enterprise for allegedly flying a plane thousands of times with critical equipment overdue for replacement. The Parachute Center of Acampo, California, was also cited for failure to undertake required inspections.

The AP report revealed that the Parachute Center operated a 20-passenger DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter on more than 2,600 flights without inspecting critical portions of the wings for corrosion, as well as allowing critical components to remain in use well beyond mandated life limits. Any failure of the wings or such components in the air could lead to a plane accident and produce plane crash victims. The FAA proposed a fine of $664,000 against the operator.

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