Avantair Maintenance Director Pleads Guilty

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David Esteves, 52, who was director of maintenance at the now-defunct Avantair fractional-ownership company, pleaded guilty on Friday in a federal court to charges that he tampered with evidence during investigations by the FAA and NTSB. Both agencies were looking into why an Avanti turboprop crew flew from California to Nevada, with passengers on board, with the left tail elevator missing. The flight landed safely and nobody was hurt. Federal authorities charged that Esteves asked an aviation maintenance contractor in Las Vegas to cover up evidence, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The contractor told the court that a few days after the incident, Esteves asked him to run the aircraft’s engines for 30 to 45 minutes, which would have wiped clean the cockpit voice recorder, but the contractor refused. He was also asked to tighten a loose nut he found on the right elevator, but refused. At its peak, Avantair employed about 500 people and operated 60 Piaggio Avanti turboprops in fractional ownership programs, from its base at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in Florida. The company declared bankruptcy in 2013. Esteves was released on his own recognizance pending a sentencing hearing.

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