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Gulfstream addresses safety concerns

 


Gulfstream addresses safety concerns

Zach White

With the new airline likely serving Big Sky Country soon, Gulfstream International Airlines is defending it safety record and history.

About a week from an official decision from the Department of Transportation on whether to follow the Montana Essential Air Service board's 6-1 vote in favor of Gulfstream taking over Great Lakes Airlines' service, Gulfstream spokesperson Bruce Hicks wants to set the record straight.

"Gulfstream has maintained an extraordinary safety record," Hicks said. "Without a single accident."

PBS and CNN have both been critical of the safety record of Gulfstream and its associated pilot school.

A 2009 Federal Aviation Administration investigation resulted in the FAA issuing a $1.3 million civil penalty against the airline.

A few of the graduates of Gulfstream's school have been involved in notable accidents, including Capt. Marvin Renslow of Colgan Air Flight 3407 which crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2009, resulting in the death of 50 people, including everyone on board and one person on the ground.

Hicks said that tragedy did not reflect on the academy or the rest of its graduates.

"That pilot was at one time at our academy, but so have thousands of others," Hicks said. "His record was unremarkable."

Hicks added that Renslow had gone through many equipment upgrades and thousands of hours of flight since having anything to do with Gulfstream.

As for the FAA investigation, Hicks said that the administration had just failed to understand Gulfstream's record-keeping, and the small airline couldn't afford to contest the allegations.

"All of those issues go back four to five years ago, but it's all solved," Hicks said. "The fact is the company very, very strongly disagreed with the issues raised by the FAA, but they're a small company and didn't have the resources to challenge the federal government, and the settlement allowed us to move on."

Hicks explained that Gulfstream pilots' non-flight pay is the same as their flight pay. So the airline would add in hours in which pilots were moving airplanes on the ground between hangars and completing other such activities.

The FAA saw these times and thought the pilots were flying more than federal regulations allow.

According to Hicks, of all of the records the FAA looked at, there was one pilot who had flown seven minutes longer than allowed.

"We spent a lot of time talking with the FAA on it, and it just made sense for us to move on and get it behind us," Hicks said.

A search of the National Transportation Safety Board's records of aviation-related accidents revealed Gulfstream has been involved in six incidents since 1995.

• Four of those were equipment-related issues.

• One was determined to be the fault of the airport's ground crew in Miami.

• One was the result of an inadequate check by the first officer.

And the board determined that one of the incidents was the fault of both the ground and flight crews.

Not one of the incidents involved any injuries to crew or passengers.

By comparison, Great Lakes has been involved in 11 incidents since 1998.

• Six of those incidents were found to be the fault of flight crew.

• Four were the fault of ground crews, three at the Denver airport.

• And one was an equipment malfunction.

Two of these incidents resulted in minor injuries.

Mickey Bowman, Gulfstream's vice president of corporate development, said he expects an official statement about Gulfstream taking over Montana flights next week.

With the new airline likely serving Big Sky Country soon, Gulfstream International Airlines is defending it safety record and history.

About a week from an official decision from the Department of Transportation on whether to follow the Montana Essential Air Service board's 6-1 vote in favor of Gulfstream taking over Great Lakes Airlines' service, Gulfstream spokesperson Bruce Hicks wants to set the record straight.

"Gulfstream has maintained an extraordinary safety record," Hicks said. "Without a single accident."

PBS and CNN have both been critical of the safety record of Gulfstream and its associated pilot school.

A 2009 Federal Aviation Administration investigation resulted in the FAA issuing a $1.3 million civil penalty against the airline.

A few of the graduates of Gulfstream's school have been involved in notable accidents, including Capt. Marvin Renslow of Colgan Air Flight 3407 which crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2009, resulting in the death of 50 people, including everyone on board and one person on the ground.

Hicks said that tragedy did not reflect on the academy or the rest of its graduates.

"That pilot was at one time at our academy, but so have thousands of others," Hicks said. "His record was unremarkable."

Hicks added that Renslow had gone through many equipment upgrades and thousands of hours of flight since having anything to do with Gulfstream.

As for the FAA investigation, Hicks said that the administration had just failed to understand Gulfstream's record-keeping, and the small airline couldn't afford to contest the allegations.

"All of those issues go back four to five years ago, but it's all solved," Hicks said. "The fact is the company very, very strongly disagreed with the issues raised by the FAA, but they're a small company and didn't have the resources to challenge the federal government, and the settlement allowed us to move on."

Hicks explained that Gulfstream pilots' non-flight pay is the same as their flight pay. So the airline would add in hours in which pilots were moving airplanes on the ground between hangars and completing other such activities.

The FAA saw these times and thought the pilots were flying more than federal regulations allow.

According to Hicks, of all of the records the FAA looked at, there was one pilot who had flown seven minutes longer than allowed.

"We spent a lot of time talking with the FAA on it, and it just made sense for us to move on and get it behind us," Hicks said.

A search of the National Transportation Safety Board's records of aviation-related accidents revealed Gulfstream has been involved in six incidents since 1995.

  • Four of those were equipment-related issues.
  • One was determined to be the fault of the airport's ground crew in Miami.
  • One was the result of an inadequate check by the first officer.

And the board determined that one of the incidents was the fault of both the ground and flight crews.

Not one of the incidents involved any injuries to crew or passengers.

By comparison, Great Lakes has been involved in 11 incidents since 1998.

  • Six of those incidents were found to be the fault of flight crew.
  • Four were the fault of ground crews, three at the Denver airport.
  • And one was an equipment malfunction.

Two of these incidents resulted in minor injuries.

Mickey Bowman, Gulfstream's vice president of corporate development, said he expects an official statement about Gulfstream taking over Montana flights next week.

 

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