The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $204,050 civil penalty against an Atwater flight school for allegedly operating airplanes not in compliance with FAA regulations.
The school, Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, allegedly operated nine Cessna 152 airplanes while not in compliance with the regulations, according to a statement from the FAA.
The FAA alleges Sierra mechanics failed to inspect the planes’ seat locking pins, according to the requirements of an Airworthiness Directive. The FAA issued the Airworthiness Directive after reports of seats slipping when a latch pin was not properly engaged, which could lead to the pilot losing control of the airplane, the statement said.
Sierra allegedly operated the nine aircraft on a total of 358 flights, including instruction and rental flights, when they had not been properly inspected. The statement said the FAA also alleges Sierra improperly recorded a maintenance log entry for one of the aircraft.
The flight school, which is based at Castle Commerce Center, has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA's enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
Officials at the flight school said they don’t agree with the FAA’s contentions. Bob Deklinski, the school’s spokesman, said proper inspections were completed on the nine planes, and they are safe. Deklinski said safety remains the school’s top priority. “If we have any (indication) that anything is wrong with an aircraft, we will ground the entire fleet,” Deklinski said. “We’re very proud of our safety record.”
Robert Hajek, a Del Mar-based private aviation attorney who’s representing Sierra in the matter, said he’ll meet with FAA’s attorney to try and resolve the case. If it cannot be resolved, the issue will go before the National Transportation Safety Board, who will determine whether to affirm or reduce the civil penalty, Hajek said.
Hajek said the claims by FAA regarding the seat locking pins amount to only a “technical issue” which has been addressed.
Deklinski said the school has around 200 students.