FAA Suspends Alouette C of A
A West Virginia company says it wants its "day in court" to fight a seemingly perplexing decision by the FAA to ground dozens of French-built helicopters, some of which have been operating in the U.S. for years. As AVweb reported last month, the agency sent owners of some Alouette helicopters telling them they must have a "certificate of airworthiness for export" to fly legally in the U.S., even though FAA inspectors had authorized the importation of some Alouettes and issued valid U.S. C of A documents without that document. The issue mainly affects aircraft built for use by the French and German military, which have gone on the surplus market. Marpat spokesman Joe Altizer told AVweb the latest wrinkle is that while the documentation the FAA says it requires exists in French archives, French authorities are claiming the FAA has asked them not to release those documents to the owners. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig says he's looking into the allegations that the FAA is trying to block access to the French documents. Altizer said the FAA's inability or unwillingness to resolve the issue at the administrative level led him to openly defy the agency 10 days ago and that brought an immediate response in the form of an emergency suspension of the aircraft's certificate of airworthiness.
Marpat's Alouette was grounded for the paperwork discrepency on July 6 and Altizer said he spent five weeks trying to get answers from the FAA about how to make it legal again. On Aug. 13 the company sent an email telling the FAA's Rotorcraft Directorate that it planned to resume flying its Alouette. After five weeks of silence, the agency responded the following day with the emergency suspension. Marpat appealed the suspension and that means a hearing must be held. Altizer said there is no safety of flight issue, as the Alouettes have shown themselves to be reliable aircraft. He said he hopes the hearing will require the FAA to reveal why it's gone to such extreme measures to ground aircraft that don't appear to be a threat to anyone.