By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
On July 28, a Piaggio Avanti operated by Avantair flew two legs (one with passengers) without a left elevator, and now the company has grounded its entire fleet as it works with the FAA through a safety review. Avantair is based out of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Florida, and operates almost 60 Piaggio Avanti turboprop pusher aircraft in fractional ownership programs. According to the NTSB, the incident aircraft departed Camarillo Airport in California, travelled to San Diego, where it picked up two passengers, and then flew to Henderson Executive Airport in Nevada. The missing elevator was discovered by airport personnel at Camarillo, three days later. The pilots did report some peculiarities.
According to the NTSB, after the crew landed the plane in Nevada they had a look at the tail and discovered that the left elevator was missing. The Avanti has three lifting surfaces: the main wing, a forward canard and a lifting stabilizer mounted atop the vertical fin at the rear of the aircraft. The crew reported to the NTSB they had some control issues, including the need to apply more-than-normal back pressure during landing in Nevada, but said there didn't appear to be anything unusual about the San Diego leg. Avantair has hired former FAA official Nick Sabatini to oversee the operator's safety inspections and a review of its maintenance records. Some workers at the company have been furloughed while the safety review is ongoing. Avantair has contacted its customers about the temporary shutdown of operations.