Intentionally Falsified Records and Improper Inspections
FAA takes Revocation Action instead of Compliance
FAA is ENFORCING FARs
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has served an emergency order revoking the repair station certificate of Porterfield Propellers of Abernathy, Texas.
The company, which was authorized to test and inspect propellers, intentionally falsified records and conducted improper inspections, the FAA alleges.
On Oct. 16, 2017, Porterfield Propellers knowingly falsified records to indicate it had used required equipment while inspecting two propellers for a Piper Aztec. The records indicated the company performed a magnetic particle inspection of the propeller blade clamps, but no such inspections were done, the FAA alleges.
In May 2018, the company serviced five propeller blades with equipment that had not undergone required overhauls, the FAA alleges. Additionally, the company had not validated the equipment by conducting required evaluations of parts on which it had been used, the FAA alleges.
Under the FAA’s emergency order, Porterfield must immediately surrender its certificate. The company can request an FAA review of the emergency determination within two days after receiving the order. The company also has 10 days after receiving the order to file an appeal with the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
For a variety of good policy and resource reasons, the FAA set self-disclosure and compliance as priorities over enforcement and civil penalties. The Hill and the Office of Inspector General have both expressed doubts of the efficacy of this approach, one critic called it a “get out of jail free ticket” program.
A careful reading of the FAA’s Safety Management System and the new Compliance Philosophy would show that the policy recognizes that there are instances in which severe sanctions must be applied. Porterfield Propellers of Abernathy, Texas is a prime example of cases in which compliance was not enough. The $1 to 2.5 million small business with 1,000 to 4,999 square footage of space, knowingly falsified its records and used equipment which had not been properly calibrated. Porterfield issued airworthiness releases on these propellers and presumably they were reinstalled on aircraft without the magnetic particle inspection. The absence of this documentation and more importantly the failure to complete the required inspection with properly calibrated equipment could have resulted in disaster.
There are no reports yet whether Porterfield has surrendered its Part 145. It has a right to appeal its revocation before an NTSB ALJ and then the Board. It may well have facts that contravene the FAA’s allegations.
Small businesses probably regard the record-keeping FARs as burdensome. This practice fails to recognize that these documents are the evidence on which the FAA relies to determine compliance. The sanctity of these papers is a core regulatory indicator of the certificate holder’s attention to the details of the FARs.
Porterfield Propellers is proof of the “paperwork matters” adage and of the FAA’s intent to continue to enforce its regulations vigorously.
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