Group Hits Charter Grounding

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A major Canadian aviation industry group is accusing Transport Canada of grounding a charter operator for public relations reasons. John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) called a news conference Monday to tell reporters he believes Transport Canada's decision to pull the operating certificate for Aeropro Aviation, of Quebec City, was based on public perception. "It wanted to show it was responsive to the population," McKenna said. Transport Canada says it found significant management and operational problems and repeated violations of regulations by the company during a safety audit last month. It would not reveal details of the audit. The audit was prompted by two fatal crashes in two months by Aeropro aircraft.

Seven people died in June when an Aeropro King Air went down shortly after takeoff from Quebec City in June. The pilot reported engine problems and was returning to the field when the accident occurred. In May, a Cessna 172 owned by Aeropro subsidiary Sasair crashed near Quebec city, killing the young pilot who had rented it and his three passengers. Federal authorities are investigating both accidents but it will likely be months before the cause is determined. McKenna said it's therefore premature for Transport Canada to pull Aeropro's ticket. Aeropro tried to get a court injunction against the government to prevent the revocation but the judge sided with Transport Canada. The company is appealing the Transport Canada order.