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The FAA grounded Transair, who lost a 737 in Hawaii earlier in the month, by revoking the company’s permit to do maintenance inspections.

We saw the ditching of the Transair 737-200 shortly after take-off in Honolulu, on the 2nd of July. The crew initially faced problems with one of their engines, before the second engine also seemed to let them down. This was a cargo aircraft, so the two pilots where the only people on board. They had to ditch their crippled aircraft in rough seas, in the middle of the night, a very challenging feat. Fortunately they both survived, but with serious injuries. They have both since left hospital.

FAA Grounds Transair Due To Maintenance Concerns

The nose section. Image: NTSB

With engine trouble featuring in this accident, it would be reasonable to assume that this is why the FAA took interest in the maintenance practices of Transair. But it seems that this isn’t quite the sequence of events. The FAA has had its concerns about the maintenance side of Transair’s operation since last fall.

The actual name of the company is Rhoades Aviation, Inc. They are doing business as Transair, on the cargo side of the operation. There is also Trans Executive Airlines of Hawaii, Inc., doing business as Transair Express, for passenger operations. It appears that the two companies operate under different AOCs. So it seems that the actions of the FAA are impacting only Rhoades, i.e. the cargo side of Transair.

The rear (main) section of the fuselage, including the wings. Image: NTSB

 

FAA – Transair Under the Microscope?

So given the timing of the FAA’s actions (from last fall), there is no direct connection with the Transair ditching. Rhoades Aviation was doing its own maintenance inspections on its aircraft. And just two weeks before the crash/ditching, the FAA told the company that they would revoke this maintenance authorization.

Rhoades had thirty days to appeal this decision. Interestingly, they did not. The 30 days ended on the 13th of July, and the FAA has now effectively grounded Transair, as a result. In addition to the lost aircraft, the company has four more 737-200s, and a sole 737-400. The latter is in storage since the 28th of June. Of the 200s, only one aircraft (N809TA) has been active since the ditching (June 2nd). But the whole 737 fleet was active until days or weeks before the crash.

With one exception. N737CS is in Taiwan since last April, for maintenance purposes. Beyond their Boeing fleet, there are also a number of Shorts 360 aircraft, that operate wearing the Transair livery. But the operator of these aircraft is Trans Executive Airlines, not Rhoades Aviation. And they appear to operate normally, indicating that the FAA has not taken action against the ‘other’ Transair operation.

FAA Grounds Transair Due To Maintenance Concerns

The ditched aircraft in 2015. Note the Shorts 360 behind it. Photo: Chris Hoare, CC BY 2.0, (cropped)

These developments put the ditching of the Transair/Rhoades 737-200 under a changed perspective. Again, it appears that the FAA actions against Transair would have happened in any case. But any incident and certainly any accident puts airlines under more scrutiny. And we have yet to see if there will be any effects on Transair’s passenger side of the business.

The NTSB’s findings on the crash will certainly be interesting.

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