The National Transportation Safety Board took the unusual move last month of asking the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the Ravn family of companies.
A report says Hageland failed to achieve safety outcomes, at the time losing operational control and launching flights without proper oversight. The company’s CEO says the report does not reflect the changes Ravn has made in recent months.
The FAA says it already was looking into the companies before the NTSB issued its request. Still, the board wants a hard look at the airlines, citing 6 accidents over the past two years, including two fatal crashes in the Y-K Delta. Bob Hajdukovich is President and CEO of Ravn. He says the report is a step behind the company’s efforts.
“Everything that is requested for in the letter has already happened or is in the process of happening, so really, what was the purpose of the letter?” Hajdukovich said.
The NTSB says an inadequate risk assessment program may have played a role in the crash that killed four people in a Cessna 208 outside St. Marys in November. The agency says that flight is among many Hageland allowed to launch without knowing or addressing some risks.
Hajdukovich says since January, that process of deciding whether it’s safe to fly was made in tandem with a central control center in Palmer. Before, flights were release based out of hubs like Bethel or Nome.
“I think when you have a local control there is the potential for making more of an economic risk assessment as opposed to a pure risk assessment,” Hajdukovich said. said. “So in other words, that person on the ground in Bethel can be impacted by 300 people in the lobby, 20,000 pounds of mail, or bad weather. So there’s always a tension that’s there that you don’t want to be there when you’re truly trying to analyze the risk of the flight.”
The NTSB held off on making their recommendation after the operational control center was in place. But after two pilots died on a training flight in April, the agency moved ahead.
Hajdukovich lists millions of dollars in improvements at Era Aviation, now named Corvus Airline, which carries flights with 10 or more passengers. He adds Hageland is seeking 5-star rating in the Medallion Foundation safety program, which exceeds FAA regulations. In any case, Hajdukovich says safety is the top priority.
“That’s not a long term strategy to hurt airplanes or certainly hurt our customers so we’re going to take every opportunity to improve our safety systems,” Hajdukovich said. “We have humans behind the wheel, and we have customers that can also be a part of our safety system. They should report that they were in bad weather and they didn’t think the pilot should be there. They should report that. They shouldn’t be so hungry to get home that they are part of that pressure pot, that pressure cooker,”
The FAA says it will formally respond within 90 days. They report having increased surveillance since 2011 and had a team on site last week.