On Friday April 8, 2005, the NTSB issued a Safety Recommendation containing three separate recommendations for the FAA to improve its oversight over Part 135 commercial operators. The recommendations arose out of the NTSB’s investigation of the July 13, 2003 crash of an Air Sunshsine Cessna 402C. The aircraft was ditched in the Atlantic Ocean about 7.35 nautical miles west-northwest of Treasure Cay Airport, Treasure Cay, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, after the in-flight failure of the right engine.
The NTSB found that the probable cause of the accident was “the in-flight failure of the right engine and the pilot’s failure to adequately manage the airplane’s performance after the engine failed.” The Board also determined that “the right engine failure resulted from inadequate maintenance that was performed by Air Sunshine’s maintenance personnel during undocumented maintenance.” A copy of the Board’s factual report is available online here.
During the course of its investigation, the NTSB found several deficiencies in the FAA’s oversight of Air Sunshine which raised concerns regarding the FAA’s oversight of other Part 135 commercial operators. As a result, the NTSB has recommended that the FAA:
1. Review the procedures used during its oversight of Air Sunshine, including those for the Surveillance and Evaluation Program and Regional Aviation Safety Inspection Program, to determine why the inspections failed to ensure that operational and maintenance issues that existed at the company were corrected. On the basis of the findings of this review, modify Part 135 inspection procedures to ensure that such issues, including maintenance record-keeping and practices, are identified and corrected before accidents occur. (A-05-08)
2. Develop specific criteria regarding the number of accidents and/or incidents that would cause an increase in oversight of an operator. (A-05-09)
3. Review and revise the process through which the transfer of a Part 135 air carrier’s operating certificate from one Flight Standards District Office to another is granted to ensure the adequate oversight of such carriers. Further, ensure that, before granting an operator’s request to transfer an operating certificate, appropriate geographic oversight is in place at the new office and that the justification for the transfer has been adequately documented and reviewed. (A-05-10)
For a more detailed explanation of the NTSB’s investigation into the Air Sunshine crash and the specific deficiencies uncovered by the NTSB, you should read the full Safety Recommendation.