HONOLULU (KHON2) — The plane that crash-landed in the ocean off Oahu on Friday, July 2, was operated by a company contracted to carry U.S. mail interisland. No mail was aboard the flight, but it led to the grounding of other jets in the fleet of a company with a troubled compliance history with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The owner and operator of Transair and its planes have racked up hundreds of thousands in federal fines and penalties from the FAA. They have managed to keep the fleet going in part to serve a critical U.S. mail contract, however.
The plane that went down was among the older in Transair’s fleet; built in 1975. Transair carries cargo, including mail.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) told Always Investigating that no mail was on the downed plane.
“However, the crash led to the grounding of some other Transair jets, including those that usually transport mail from Honolulu to Kahului and Hilo every night and from those two neighbor island cities back to Honolulu every afternoon,” said USPS spokesperson Duke Gonzales. “Fortunately, we were able to collaborate with Transair to quickly make alternate arrangements to fly the mail to and from both Kahului and Hilo, beginning on Friday. Those arrangements have allowed us to minimize the impact of the Transair grounding on our customers.”
KHON2 has been trying to find out from the FAA if maintenance or operations issues could have contributed to the crash. The FAA said they can not talk about ongoing investigations but they do reveal past enforcement actions.
Always Investigating dug through nearly 100 FAA quarterly enforcement reports that spanned 25 years to look for enforcement actions that resulted in fines and penalties associated with Transair, and found more than a dozen that totaled about $210,000.
They include maintenance, flight operations, records and reporting, even drug testing violations. The cases have been closed and fines levied against both Rhoades Aviation, the registered owner of the plane and operator Trans Executive Airlines of Hawaii, which does business as Transair. According to state business records, these corporate entities share the same top executive.
The FAA told Always Investigating in a statement: “The FAA expects compliance to be the standard. Civil penalties are one of the options available to the agency to address instances in which a regulated entity fails to adhere to FAA regulations.”
KHON2 asked the company about the extensive past FAA fines and penalties and a spokesperson responded: “While the NTSB is investigating the incident, the company has been advised not to comment.”
According to sources, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are asking questions about the very things that have been categories of fines and penalties for the company, standard NTSB procedure after plane crashes.
The Boeing 737 crashed about 2 miles off Oahu’s west side around 2 a.m. shortly after it took off heading to Maui. The pilots radioed about engine trouble, lost both engines and ditched the aircraft in the ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued both pilots.
The airline declined to comment about what they did in each enforcement case to rectify what was found wrong. Always Investigating has asked the FAA for details of each enforcement action and will continue to follow up.