Avantair Grounds Entire Fleet for Safety Checks

AINalerts » October 23, 2012
October 23, 2012, 3:45 PM

On Saturday, fractional provider Avantair grounded its entire fleet of about 60 Piaggio Avanti twin turboprops to conduct “a comprehensive examination of all maintenance records and aircraft.” According to industry sources, the action stemmed from an incident earlier this year in which an Avantair Avanti shed an elevator in flight.

“This action is voluntary and involves the temporary stand-down of [our] aircraft,” Avantair said in a statement. “To date, of the aircraft in the fleet that have been inspected, there have been no compliance or airworthiness issues. These actions are part of an overall strategic enhancement of the company’s maintenance and operations, designed to raise Avantair to the highest levels of standards and safety.”

As of today, about 40 of Avantair’s airplanes were back in service after the inspections, and the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company expects to have its entire fleet flying again by Thursday. While its fleet was grounded, Avantair outsourced trips to third-party charter operators or, in some instances, told customers it was unable to conduct their flights, a spokesman told AIN.

“Safety is Avantair’s top priority. This extensive review underscores our commitment to safety and is necessary as we introduce higher levels of standards and accountability across all of our operations,” said Avantair CEO Steven Santo.

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No Avatar
Pilotwifey
on October 26, 2012 - 1:27pm

My husband told me if anything ever happens to him to launch an investigation into the company's maintenance records. That sounded scary to me and I'm glad the FAA came down on them, it saved the lives of employees and customers. Which is more important than running a shotty operation. Praying for the pilots who work hard and get crap in return. Good luck to you all.

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Pro Pilot
on October 26, 2012 - 2:00pm

Here are a few facts for you to consider. Avantair hires very experienced pilots with thousands of flight hours. They put them through rigorous training in sophisticated flight simulators before they fly with passengers.
The Piaggio is equipped with advanced, modern avionics including terrain and traffic collision avoidance technology.
The engines on the Piaggio (Pratt and Whitney PT6) are the most reliable turboporop engines available.
It is my understanding that the FAA is not happy with the way the maintenance department has been documenting its work.
The company has taken it upon themselves to halt all flights until the issue has been resolved.

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Piaggio Pilot
on October 26, 2012 - 5:23pm

Yea.....Avantair grounded its entire fleet just to get their paperwork in order. That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

lolololololololololololololololol

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piaggiodriver
on October 26, 2012 - 3:48pm

Hi Truth, in the interest of fairness, truth, and transparency, I wanted to respond to your assertions that I am drunk on VNR Kool Aide, and don't have concerns for my fellow VNR employees.

What I was referring to was that VNR had none of the recession-related mass terminations seen at places such as XOJET and, I believe, Flex. Nor did we have any of the mass furloughs seen at Flex, Options, and Netjets. Yes, after our recent pay freeze, and per diem, vacation cuts, and schedule change, VNR management did offer leaves of absences for pilots who were not satisfied with their new assigned schedule, pay or vacation. And while a furlough MAY indeed happen, no furlough has happened yet. In addition, VNR has has a written, seniority-based furlough policy; No returning at first-year pay or re-interviewing for your job. We hope that it doesn't come down to needing it, but it is nice to know that it is there.

As far as terminations for "cause" and training failures, yes they do happen. But from my experience, you have to screw up pretty bad to get terminated or asked to resign. And yes, training is challenging at VNR, but it is challenging due to the challenging environment that we fly in. Not everyone makes it through training here, and that includes former airline and military. This flying is infinitely more challenging than my scheduled 121 airline past and the training was tougher, but the flying was also infinitely more challenging, diverse, and enjoyable and I am a better pilot from it and VNR training. I would be a liar if I said that I didn't wish that some of those who were fired or failed training, were given a third or fourth chance, but that wasn't my call.

Finally, I never said that VNR is a flawless, Utopian society, and that management, employees, or myself are without flaws. But I will tell you that VNR has and is worth fighting for, and myself and my fellow employees are probably in for the fight of our careers to try to right our ship. In my discussions with fellow pilots, we often discuss how few places that we would leave VNR for. I hope that you and everyone else here on this board wish us luck in our goal to preserve VNR and best luck in our endeavors and careers. Thanks, piaggiodriver.

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Piaggio Pilot
on October 26, 2012 - 5:32pm

PD, no one wishes bad on most of you VNR pilots. But geeez dude, wake up. The business model at Avantair doesn't work. It never has and never will. There is a reason that your company has sustained 10 straight years of losses. There is a reason the stock value went from $5.00 down to .10 cents today. This isn't rocket science. Your ship can't be righted. The smart people already jumped your ship.

And you found the training "challenging?" That might explain some of the incidents/accidents there. I found the training a peice of cake. Good luck.

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Bill
on October 26, 2012 - 6:05pm

It's official folks. Everyone is furloughed!

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Piaggio Pilot
on October 26, 2012 - 8:30pm

But it isn't a suprise. It's been brewing for a few years. Shoulda voted for a union.

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AvantairEmployee
on October 26, 2012 - 6:38pm

On a conference call conducted at 1800 EDT, the are furloughing employees for at least 2 weeks. Sad day for all of us employees.

Communication with employees/owners have always been horrible. For instance management did not alert employees of the upcoming call till 30 minutes before the call was scheduled. Only by chance i saw this email and heard the bad news.

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Avionicswife
on October 26, 2012 - 11:29pm

Same here. Management....what management!

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VNR Fractional Owner
on October 26, 2012 - 7:22pm

My wife and I have been fractional owners for several years. The people we have dealt with in Owner Services have always been lovely. The pilots and FOs that have flown us have been exceedingly polite and professional. The Avanti has always been a very comfortable aircraft, and its performance and operating costs were part of what drew us to Avantair. To all of the staff that we have met and/or talked to, you have made our lives much easier. To those who we have never met, your contributions are appreciated. You will all be in our thoughts over the coming weeks. We thank you for everything you have done for us.

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Avionicswife
on October 26, 2012 - 11:45pm

Of course we are sad for all the hard working people who are out of work and for those who will face deep hardship. But I am so happy that my husband can collect unemployment and look for a real job. The stress he went through while working for this horrible company is just not worth the paycheck. The management was nonexistent. People sleeping or gaming on the job- even so called managers! No system for organizing and inventory of parts so yes, robbing other plans was happening! Spending outrageous amounts of money to send $2 parts from one location to another. Everyday he would come home with a story about how things were being done and how he felt it was so wrong and many times wasteful. I encouraged him to speak with management but it fell on deaf ears. Pass down of information never happened from shift to shift. Management never followed through on anything. He was so frustrated. He likes to work and do things right. He has been in this business his whole life and has loved it. He no longer wants to work on airplanes. We could not afford for him to quit so he was trying to stick it out. Our prayers were answered. SO RELIEVED!!!!

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Marc Piaggio Owner
on October 27, 2012 - 3:36am

A lot of these negative posts feel like they're coming from people either uninformed or with an ax to grind--be they disgruntled former employees or hopeful competitors. I've been a Colorado-based owner of a 1/8th interest (100 hours) in Avantair's Piaggio for eight years, and I generally couldn't be happier with their performance over what is approaching the past decade. This is a hard-working group of good people providing a great service at a reasonable price. Sure, they've had some growing pains over the eight years I've been an owner (including fairly poor communication throughout this ongoing stand down), but it's not like that's something unusual for a young, growing company, and these few isolated aircraft incidents in the past year or two can't be much different than those experienced by any other type of aircraft (I believe the Piaggio has an exceptional overall safety record). Almost without exception the pilots we've flown with have been first and foremost concerned about safety, and some of these folks are retired major-airline pilots with a huge amount of experience. The Owner Services folks are equally customer oriented. And this isn't like some high-tech IPO of the past where upper management gets wealthy at the cost of the rest of the company; these guys aren't getting rich on this--read the proxies on the SEC web site to see just what they're making. Absent having some sort of personal agenda, I don't know why people want to wish ill will on Avantair. At the proverbial end of the day, "Avantair" is not some corporate beast--it's a group of good, talented people working hard to help the company succeed by providing a great service at an exceptionally competitive price. I wish them nothing but the best, and hope they get through this quickly and get back to doing what they do so well. That's my agenda.

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Avantair Dude
on October 27, 2012 - 12:22pm

As is usually the case, the truth falls somewhere in the middle. As much as I see personal agendas on here, I also see some pretty hard sugar-coating of serious and fundamental problems, most of which are not/will not be addressed during this shut down. It's true that our pilots are great. They are professional, highly-qualified and usually very pleasant to work with. Owner Services are mostly great, hard working people and take a verbal beating by some owners at the slightest delay or issue with their travel. You can imagine what these last weeks have been like for them. And operations is also full of very qualified and hard working people. There are bad seeds in each group as is always the case. As has been mentioned before, the core of Avantair's problem is with management. Upper management is completely detached from the operation. They swoop in and interfere occasionally, not having the slightest clue what they are talking about. And they have no vision, no ideas. If they have a strategic plan, it is a closely guarded secret that is not shared, nor visible to concerned employees. The Piaggio is an amazing aircraft. Nothing can match its speed, range and comfort at a similar price. No turboprops can do it, no light jets and only midsize jets at a much higher price. But they are not designed to fly 1500+ hours a year. They were made for a different mission, not airline-style work. Upper management needs to deal with this issue. Employees have tons of ideas to improve the company, but there is absolutely NO ONE willing to listen to new ideas. And lower level managers are mostly unqualified, incompetent friends of the upper management that have no people or manager skills whatsoever and show an open contempt for their hard-working employees. There's just no respect or appreciation from them at all. Avantair has lots of potential, but more changes need to be made. All the pieces are there, they just need to bid farewell to about 80% of the managers and ask Steve Santo to go far, far away and never return. I don't think the company will ever make a dime with him calling any shots. Avantair's hard-working employees deserve better than this and I hope that investors will demand a change in management and a true strategy moving forward.

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Geo
on October 27, 2012 - 8:13am

Cannibalization of an aircraft to make another airworthy is the worst maintenance practice there is. It doubles and in some cases quadruples the workload while introducing possibilities of errors needlessly.

And is even legal in this case without the owners permission? I can see where an owner of a new airplane might have his airplane in the shop while a part has to be fabricated or, in this case, sent from Italy. When the owner gets his plane back it is still the same low-time airframe, but now has older, repaired engines, propellers, landing gear, actuators, and other life-limited components. The value of the owner's aircraft has decreased drastically.

If I were an owner I would hire my own professional to go over the log books from day one to see what has been done to the aircraft and compare what serial-numbered components are physically on the aircraft compared to what should be there and what serviceable components were cannibalized and replaced. Then I would find someone else to manage it and quite possibly go get a lawyer.

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Chad Trautvetter
on October 27, 2012 - 11:19am

Avantair share owners willing to be quoted on the record can send me their comments by email. Click on my name above to send an email to me here at Aviation International News.

Thanks,

Chad Trautvetter

AIN

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furloughed
on October 27, 2012 - 2:06pm

Yesterday, they "furloughed" a lot of dedicated employees with no true idea as to when we will be called back to work. Mgmt has a habit of lying to owners as well as their employees. I believe that they knew what was in store for us for weeks and chose not to COMMUNICATE to us. I can't say we didn't see this coming. When the CEO's right hand man leaves, the writing is on the wall. Good luck to those few that were selected to stay. I'm not really sure who actually got the blessing here.

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furloughed
on October 27, 2012 - 3:13pm

Yesterday, they "furloughed" a lot of dedicated employees with no true idea as to when we will be called back to work. Mgmt has a habit of lying to owners as well as their employees. I believe that they knew what was in store for us for weeks and chose not to COMMUNICATE to us. I can't say we didn't see this coming. When the CEO's right hand man leaves, the writing is on the wall. Good luck to those few that were selected to stay. I'm not really sure who actually got the blessing here.

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THE ANUNNAKI
on October 28, 2012 - 9:32am

The Avanti P180 is by far the most economical aircraft of it's Kind. Owners, please find a crew to manage your aircraft, it is not that difficult. The aircraft is not the problem, is what the company is demanding from a fragile but fantastic machine.
There are lots of Avanti pilots that would love to fly and, manage this fantastic machine. Good Luck to all.

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Piaggio Pilot
on October 28, 2012 - 5:42pm

The matching has begun.

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Rmr
on October 28, 2012 - 10:41pm

The challenge, of course, is that few people own an entire plane. Many own 1/16 or 1/8th. Still if all else fails, I am sure opportunities will present themselves. That said, I am still holding out hope that the company will work it's way through this.

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PRO PILOT
on October 29, 2012 - 1:22am

Santo created this company then ultimately killed it. Great plane, great pilots, terrible management and lying greedy CEO.
What a waste. What a waster.

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THE ANUNNAKI
on October 29, 2012 - 6:21am

If in need of a Managing crew for an Avanti , please let me know.

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Dean
on October 29, 2012 - 10:51pm

Get ready for another diatribe from management...about this being voluntary. This place is essentially in shut down mode. One can only hope they go BK so that the judge can stop the looting. The mo for this management team has been to fleece the owners and employees...if there is a few mil $ in cash left, watch out for the final money grab.

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Rockitansky
on October 30, 2012 - 4:56pm

I am a Phoenix based pilot who has 1000+ hours in the Piaggio and 6,000+ total time who can also quickly return to the cockpit.....I come from the corporate world and would love to get back into it and would be willing to relocate for the right job.....Good luck to all you Avantair pilots and support personnel.

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Notshocked
on December 28, 2012 - 4:01pm

flew for Avantair several years ago. Had a run away elevator trim in to ATL on final. Both myself and other pilot used enormous amounts of back pressure on controls to both maintain safe flight attitude to complete landing.....that was my first thought hearing of this...Not shocked.

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Howard Roark
on January 10, 2013 - 11:13am

I have been reading all the posts, and agree. I have been an owner since 2005, lots of hours flown, honest, the service level changed once they became a public company and also since they started selling cards. Since I made the decision to buy based on fractional only, I estimated with re positioning, the average hours flown on my aircraft would be 1000 per year, maybe 1100. The card sales meant my asse was going to be depreciating much faster, without any revenue pick up to the owners, as well as the card flyers in my opinion do not treat the asset like the owners do. I have been very happy on most flights, the pilots, crew are great. I was also scheduled to fly out the next morning after the grounding, and with less than 11 hours notice, had to find my own ride which I did with Flight Options help, not Avantair's. They did not honor their own contract to charter me an aircraft, but did offer hours. So how do we make sure Avantair succeeds and really lives up to the contracts, and I think the best way is that we have a real owners group, not the Clint Allen group, which is rediculously biased.
Thoughts on how we set this up, so we can all share our concerns and comments?
Thanks

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piper62j
on June 27, 2013 - 10:04am

It saddens me to hear about yet another airline under poor management. Seems the American way is to bleed a cash cow dry and dump it. Being an aviation enthusiast & pilot, I believe the industry should be controlled and managed by those who love aviation for what it is. If it was possible (maybe it is) the employees or an individual who cares about this aircraft and the Avant Air company could throw out present management, clean house and run it as a growing, money making entity. It's been done before. Employees of Harley Davidson did it when AMC owned the company and it was dying. Look at HD today.. One of the largest profit making industries in the world. It can be done..

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