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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Knuckleheads of the Day award

Today's winners are Chalk Ocean Airways and the FAA. Yesterday the NTSB released a report on the December 20, 2005 that killed 20 people. The airline's poor maintenance when combined with the FAA's lax oversight of Chalk, led to the disaster.

Twenty lives are gone, including three infants because an airline wanted to do its business on the cheap and our government let them do it.(Remember this FAA story?) That's all it takes to make Chalk Ocean Airways and the FAA today's Knuckleheads of the Day.

Linked to- Bright & Early, Cao, Jo, Leaning Straight Up, Perri Nelson, Right Voices, Right Wing Nation, Samantha Burns, StikNstein, Yankee Sailor,

Poor maintenance, lax federal oversight and a sloppy corporate culture that didn't stress safety led to the fiery midair breakup of a Chalk's seaplane off Miami Beach in December 2005, killing all 20 aboard, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

"It glares at you: This was a poorly operated airline," board Chairman Mark Rosenker said.

A lawyer for the Fort Lauderdale-based carrier, which considers itself the nation's oldest airline, founded in 1919, disputed the NTSB's findings.

"It was not a fair assessment," said attorney Dennis O'Hara.

Shortly after Chalk's Ocean Airways Flight 101 took off from the Port of Miami on Dec. 19, 2005, its right wing snapped off and burst into flames. The 7-ton Grumman Turbo Mallard plunged into the ocean near a jetty.

Of the 18 passengers, including three infants, most were from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, the plane's destination. Two crew members also died.

The safety board determined that cracks caused by metal fatigue at the point where the wing was attached to the fuselage led to the plane's disintegration in flight. The board blamed the airline for failing to detect the structural damage despite numerous warning signs, including fuel leaks, corrosion and a 16-inch-long crack in the fuselage's skin.

"This was an accident waiting to happen," board member Kitty Higgins said.

During a five-hour hearing in Washington, D.C., board members chastised Chalk's for underestimating the weight of passengers, using an average of 165 pounds per person when federal guidelines called for 190 pounds. That likely resulted in the airline routinely flying over maximum allowable weight.

Other factors that could have contributed to the accident were the plane's age -- it was 58 years old -- and the wear and tear of more than 40,000 takeoffs and landings, many of them into pounding surf, said Bill English, the NTSB investigator in charge of the accident.

"The ocean and the waves do increase the stress on the airplane," he said.

O'Hara, Chalk's attorney, said he was disappointed the safety board berated Chalk's corporate culture without having conducted in-depth interviews with employees.

"It was a very superficial analysis, yet they included it in their findings," he said.

He said the board failed to mention that another company, Frakes Aviation of Cleburne, Texas, was also responsible for maintaining Chalk's planes.

In its ruling, the board accused the Federal Aviation Administration of lax oversight. Notably, board members said, the FAA's principal inspector over the carrier had said he was comfortable with Chalk's maintenance program, even though there were numerous problems, including a lack of proper record keeping.

Also, in the year before the accident, Chalk's pilots had become increasingly concerned about what they thought was an anemic maintenance program, according to the safety board investigation. Three captains resigned, with one of them saying there was "blatant neglect" in repairing aircraft.

Board members said the FAA should have been suspicious of a number of operational problems, including the airline reportedly being in "financial distress" and overburdening some of its managers.

For instance, Michele L. Marks, 37, of Boynton Beach, captain of the flight, was named the airline's director of safety in the months prior to the accident, yet was too busy flying to fulfill her administrative duties, said safety board member Debbie Hersman.

"There were a lot of indicators before that accident happened that there were a lot of problems at that airline," she said.

FAA spokesman Les Dorr said his agency had no indication Chalk's maintenance program was inadequate. He said the FAA's principal maintenance inspector had made hundreds of checks on the company. He noted that under federal regulations, it is up to an airline, not the FAA, to ensure repairs are properly made.

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