FAA Alleges Improper Maintenance by Western Skyways
MONTROSE – While Western Skyways, Inc. appeals a June 3 Federal Aviation Administration decision to revoke its repair station certificate, the company’s owners say its business as usual at the well-established aircraft engine rebuilding center located off the Montrose Regional Airport’s runways.
According to a FAA spokesman, Western Skyways’ repair station certificate was revoked for a number of alleged violations including improper maintenance that caused an in-flight engine failure, improper record keeping, failure to make records available to the FAA, making false maintenance record entries, and records falsifications.
Western Skyways employs approximately 50 people at its two engine remanufacturing facilities (one piston, one turbine) in Montrose, which together occupy over 130,000 square feet of space. Western Skyways co-owner David Leis said Western Skyways is the largest aircraft engine rebuilding facility in the U.S. and is the only shop in the U.S. that has both a piston rebuild shop and a turbine turbo prop shop.
“We are the only ones that do both in the entire U.S.,” Leis said. “Most people don’t know that.”
Leis said the FAA decision to revoke his repair station certificate came as a shock last June and both he and his partner and co-owner Al Head quickly appealed the decision.
“We both said, ‘What the heck is this?’ It was totally out of the blue,” Leis said. “It was something that happened five years ago. I still can’t believe it. We have filed an appeal, which will be in November. Right now it’s business as normal. We are selling engines left and right.”
In April 2009, after overhauling a Continental engine for Detroit Lakes Aviation, Western Skyways allegedly failed to produce an overhaul work order when an FAA inspector requested it in November 2009. Western Skyways produced the work order 15 months later in February 2011 but the order was allegedly missing required information.
Detroit Lakes Aviation returned the Western Skyways overhauled engine for exchange under warranty in June 2009. That same month, Western Skyways allegedly approved the engine for return to service and issued a form stating more work was done in accordance with the engine overhaul manual. That engine, according to the FAA, experienced a loss of power on Oct. 8, 2009, after being operated for approximately 198 hours following the overhaul.
The FAA requested to see all documents related to the work that was done on that engine. The FAA and now alleges that Western Skyways altered some of the documents to make it appear they were prepared for a June 11 work order while they were allegedly, in fact, prepared for other work orders. Furthermore the FAA alleges that the company did not overhaul the engine using required methods, techniques and practices and that it altered documents to make it appear the engine was overhauled a second time when it was not overhauled a second time.
In a separate allegation, the FAA believes Western Skyways failed to use required methods on a torqued bolt in July 2010 on a Teledyne Continental engine. On Aug. 20, 2010, that engine failed after being operated on for less than five hours after its overhaul. An FAA analysis showed the engine failed due to an improperly torqued bolt.
After the FAA decision to revoke the repair station certificate, Leis said Western Skyways representatives took the time to call each and every engine owner it had worked with to notify them of the situation and ask them if they have had a problem with their work.
“Nobody has had a problem with it and we are going to continue on just as we have,” he said. “We are in the appeal process and hopefully we will get [the certification] back. It was a paperwork snafu is what it was. The chief inspector put the wrong numbers on the wrong pages. The attorneys have all the paperwork and we will see what comes out of it.”
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, Leis said Western Skyways will continue on with business as usual. While it’s preferable for Western Skyways to have a FAA repair station certificate, he said it’s not necessary to run the business.
“It’s just a recognition,” Leis said. “It may or may not hurt some sales here and there.”
Leis went on to say that Western Skyways employs licensed mechanics and that both Leis and Head will have the ability to sign off on all the work the individual mechanics do without each individual having to carry their own liability insurance.
“We can sign off on everything we do,” he said. “Everything is going along just as normal. It hasn’t affected us and it won’t affect us. We are not asking employees to sign off on them. Al and myself will sign them off. This isn’t as big of a deal that many people might think.”