When Joe Altizer's employer (Marpat Aviation of Logan, West Virginia) bought three French-built Alouette helicopters, they'd all been flying previously in the U.S. All three came certified in the standard category and with current airworthiness certificates. A couple of weeks ago, FAA inspectors, accompanied by state troopers, visited Altizer's hangar and grounded the helicopters, resulting in the layoff of two pilots and a very uncertain future for the company.
The FAA says the absence of a piece of paperwork called a Certificate of Airworthiness for Export, which should have been with the aircraft when they were originally certified in the U.S., means they aren't eligible for that certification, and inspectors are tracking down all the Alouettes in the U.S. to possibly ground them as well. What's frustrating Altizer and other Alouette operators is the FAA doesn't seem to have a solution for a bureaucratic error of their own making and it's the current aircraft owners who are paying the price. We've contacted the FAA and expect a response from them shortly, but, in the meantime, AVweb's Russ Niles talked with Altizer about the unusual situation and the burden it's placing on unsuspecting Alouette owners.