Six indicted over jet crash at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

In the United States, six men linked to the defunct Florida company Platinum Jet Management have been charged in connection to the February 2, 2005 crash of a jet owned by the company at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport. The Bombardier Challenger CL-600's crash left twenty people hospitalised and prosecutors allege that regular breaches of federal law were to blame.

The business jet had been privately chartered for a flight to Chicago Midway Airport but failed to take off. Instead, the aircraft broke through a fence, crossed Route 46 and struck a warehouse, causing a fire. The plane clipped two cars on the way across the road and the accident left eleven people onboard the aircraft and nine more on the ground hospitalised.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and found that the flight crew had miscalcualted the aircraft's centre of gravity and that overfilling the fuel tanks had moved it too far forward.

According to a federal indictment filed Wednesday, six men within the company were "routinely undertaking and concealing dangerous fueling and weight-distribution practices." Three co-founders of Platinum - Michael Brassington, 35, his brother Paul Brassington, 29, and Andre Budhan, 42, as well as maintenance director Brien McKenzie, also 42, have been arrested and pilot Francis Vieira, 59, and director of charters Joseph Singh, 37, are being sought.

The 23-count indictment says that Michael Brassington, McKenzie and Vieira regularly stated in paperwork that aircraft were operating at weights up to 1,000 pounds lighter than the true value in breach of Federal Aviation Administration laws. It also accuses Platinum of operating commercial charters for a year between November 2002 and November 2003 without a valid licence and filing such flights as noncommercial.

The document goes on to accuse Platinum of using pilots that lacked proper training; in particular John Kimberling, who flew the jet that crashed, was not adequatly qualified to fly commercial flights, which have stricter regulations than noncommercial air operations. He has not been charged himself at this time, but investigations continue. The Southern Ledger states the accused face charges of "conspiracy, fraud, endangering the safety of aircraft and making false statements to the National Transportation Safety Board."