By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
A pilot for Platinum Jet, the now-defunct charter company whose illegal practices came to light after a crash at Teterboro Airport in 2005, has been sentenced to six months in prison. Francis Vieira, 61, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., pleaded guilty to fraud. In addition to the prison term, he will serve six months of home confinement and three years of supervised release. Vieira, who was not on board for the accident flight, admitted in court last September that on various occasions he had changed weight and balance calculations and knew that a captain was not fit to fly and said nothing. Three others who were involved with Platinum Jet have been convicted and are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming weeks.
The investigation began in September 2005, after a Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11 jet that was carrying too much fuel failed to take off at Teterboro, skidded through an airport fence, and ran into a warehouse, injuring 11 people in the airplane and 3 on the ground. The captain on that flight is among those facing charges. The court found that Vieira and his co-conspirators falsified flight logs by indicating that certain flights were private flights instead of charter flights, to conceal Part 135 violations such as pilot qualifications and rest requirements. On more than two dozen occasions, Vieira altered the weight and balance graphs for the jet that crashed at Teterboro by changing the weight and center of gravity printed on those graphs. Vieira and his co-conspirators altered the graphs so pilots could top off the fuel tanks with discounted fuel in order to save money, although it would exceed the maximum forward COG limits.