Monday, May 22, 2017

Lawsuit: Charter company flew plane from Teterboro (KTEB) despite fuel leak


Federal Civil Lawsuit

New Jersey District Court, Case No. 2:03-cv-01173-DMC 


Office Newark
Filed 3/14/2003
Jury Demand None
Demand $0
Nature of Suit 442 - Civil Rights: Employment
Cause Section 28 U.S.C. § 1331 Fed. Question
Jurisdiction Federal Question
Disposition Dismissed - Settled
County Bergen
Terminated 4/9/2003
Origin 2
Reopened None
Lead Case None
Related Case
Other Court Case {BRE-L-929-03}
Def Custody Status
Flags 12BN, CLOSED, RULE16

A former mechanic for a charter company operating at Teterboro Airport said in a lawsuit that he lost his job after refusing to allow a plane to fly because it was leaking fuel — and that the plane was allowed to operate just one day after he was fired. 

The mechanic, Dennis Portalatin, who lives in Fairfield, said in court papers that he had been telling officers with ProPilots, a Minnesota-based company, for months that pilots and other employees were not keeping accurate — and legally required — records of mechanical problems.

The lawsuit initially was filed in Superior Court in Hackensack but was moved this month to federal court in Newark, according to filings.

Portalatin alleges that the issue came to a head on Jan. 25, 2017, when he said he told company officials about fuel leaking from a wing and the fuselage of a twin-engine jet, letting them know that he would not allow the plane to operate until the leak was fixed.

Days later, on Jan. 31, he said he received a letter terminating his employment with “immediate effect.” He "later learned" that the plane flew on Feb. 1, his attorney, Matthew R. Grabell, wrote in court papers. Grabell alleged that the company “engaged in unlawful retaliation” against his client, violating New Jersey’s whistle-blower laws.

Adam Saravay, an attorney representing ProPilots, argued in court papers that the suit should be heard in U.S. District Court because federal whistleblower laws supersede state laws. The case was moved earlier this month.

Grabell sent a letter to ProPilots President Brandon Luthens on Feb. 10 saying his client would settle the matter out of court for $225,000 without filing a lawsuit, according to the filings. The suit was filed the next month.

ProPilots did not respond to a message left at its office, and Saravay said in an email that the company "would not comment on pending litigation." He added that ProPilots "follows FAA regulations" and that "when maintenance or safety issues are identified, ProPilots addresses them."

Grabell did not respond to messages seeking comment on Monday.

Portalatin, who had worked as a mechanic for ProPilots since October 2015, said in court papers that he had told company officials, including Luthens, that he was finding mechanical issues that were not being properly recorded by pilots and other personnel, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

“In response to each complaint, Plaintiff was told that if he could not fix each mechanical failure that he found, he should not worry about it because a trip was planned for the aircraft in question and it had to fly,” his attorney wrote. “Plaintiff was repeatedly assured that each mechanical irregularity would be fixed at the next stop. However, in many cases, Plaintiff learned that this was not true.”

Earlier this year, while servicing a Dassault-Breguet Falcon 20 aircraft, Portalatin said he found a total of eight mechanical issues that hadn’t been logged, and was able to correct most of them. But he said he was unable to immediately fix a fuel leak and told the company’s head of maintenance, Jim Martin, that it would take more than a few days to complete the work.

“Let it go,” Martin allegedly responded, according to court papers.

Martin allegedly told Portalatin that the problem would be fixed “somewhere else” and that seven passengers needed to be taken to their destination. He then asked what the pilot thought about the situation, according to the filing.

“The pilot is not the decision maker,” Portalatin responded, according to the suit. “I am the mechanic. I am not signing off for a fuel leak.”

Portalatin then referred to a previous incident, according to court papers, telling Martin that “you did this to me in California when I held an aircraft off for a fuel leak” and that the plane “flew after I left California.”

“I will get back to you,” Martin allegedly responded.

Portalatin said he made an inquiry about the status of the plane a few days later and that the next communication he received from the company was a letter telling him he was out of a job.

The FAA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were not immediately able to say whether any complaints had been filed with those agencies related to the allegations in the lawsuit.

Original article can be found here:

TETERBORO - An airplane mechanic who worked for a charter jet service at Teterboro Airport claims he was fired for refusing to sign off on a plane with a fuel leak, according to a lawsuit.

Dennis Portalatin of Fairfield alleges he was hired in Oct. 2015 by Pro Pilots LLC and was earning about $90,000 a year as an airplane mechanic at Teterboro Airport.

Pro Pilots provides charter jet services throughout the United States and maintains a business office on Industrial Avenue in Teterboro, according to the suit.

Shortly after he was hired, Portalatin noticed "accurate records of mechanical failures were not being properly recorded in the maintenance log books by the pilots, or otherwise," according to the suit filed in Bergen County Superior Court.

The suit states the inaccuracies were violations of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

For several months, Portalatin complained about the alleged violations to his superiors at Teterboro, the suit states.

"In response to each complaint, plaintiff was told that if he could not fix each mechanical failure that he found, he should not worry about it because a trip was planned for the aircraft in question and it had to fly," the suit states.

"Plaintiff was repeatedly assured that each mechanical irregularity would be fixed at the next stop," the suit states.

On Jan. 25, Portalatin claims he was servicing a nine-seat Dassault Falcon 20 when he found eight issues, most of which he was able to correct.

However, when Portalatin came across fuel leaking from a wing and fuselage, he told a supervisor he could not fix the leak for a few days because his employers did not own hangar space at the airport, the suit states.

A LearJet crashed in an industrial area of Carlstadt just short of the runway at Teterboro Airport on Monday afternoon, killing two crew members.

"Let it go. We will get it fixed somewhere else," said Director of Maintenance Jim Martin, according to the suit. "We have seven passengers we have to take. What does the pilot think?" 

"The pilot is not the decision maker," Portalatin claims he responded. "I am the mechanic. I'm not signing off for a fuel leak."

On Jan. 31, Portalatin claims he received a letter terminating his employment "with immediate effect."

Portalatin said he later learned the plane in question flew on Feb. 1, although the suit does not say if the leak was fixed.

Portalatin claims he was fired in retaliation for disclosing a "violation of a law, rule or regulation" and for refusing to participate in an activity that would have violated regulations, the suit states.

The suit claims Pro Pilots violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act.

Portalatin is seeking back and front pay, lost benefits, emotional distress damages, attorney fees and court costs.

Pro Pilots representatives were not immediately available for comment on Monday.

A lawyer for the company told the New York Post that Pro Pilots follows FAA regulations and addresses safety issues. The lawyer declined to comment on Portalatin's allegations.

Read more here:

A New Jersey airplane mechanic claims he was fired in January after refusing to sign off on a charter jet with a fuel leak at Teterboro Airport.

Bosses at charter-jet service Pro Pilots LLC didn’t want to hear mechanic Dennis Portalatin’s concerns about the nine-seat Dassault Falcon 20, which had eight “discrepancies,” including a leak in a wing and the fuselage, he charges in New Jersey federal court.

“Let it go,” maintenance director Jim Martin allegedly told Portalatin. “We will get it fixed somewhere else. We have seven passengers we have to take.”

The mechanic, who landed the $90,000-a-year gig in October 2015, reminded his boss that he, not the pilot, had the final say.

“I’m not signing off for a fuel leak,” he said.

A week later, Pro Pilots fired the 47-year-old Portalatin for refusing to “let it go,” he claims.

It’s unclear if Portalatin reported the violations to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

A lawyer for Pro Pilots said the company follows  Federal Aviation Administration regulations and addresses safety issues but declined to comment on Portalatin’s allegations.

Original article can be found here:


  1. Gross negligence = murder!

  2. Hat's off to Mr. Portalatin. I was really sad to see this going all the way to court. More than 40 years ago I was a fuel system repair supervisor with the USAF and was effectively "fired" (moved laterally to a position with no employees or promotion potential). Sad to see the same sort of scenario going on after all these years. Why even hire an AMT and then fail to respect his judgement? And then confound the situation by going to court and telling the world how you insisted on flying and unsafe aircraft?

  3. I've in Aviation Maintenance for 22 years and my career is coming to an end rapidly, because I am sick of bean counters telling me a plane has a flight "let it go." You report it to the FAA and they do absolutely nothing about it! They say it's dispute with management and go about their business. FYI I NEVER just "Let It Go" way to Go Dennis!

  4. I'm sure the Dassault Falcon has it. All major aircraft manufacturers have fuel leak limits in their AMM's. Chapter 28 describes them in 4 categories: stain; seep; Heavy Seep; running leak. Dispatch limits are then called out whether to log and monitor, repair next overnight mx layoff, or repair now! Depends also on the location on the wing.

  5. America is blessed to have the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

  6. Pro Pilots can delegate the duty but not the responsibility. Convict them and sentence them to actual time in an actual federal prison and publicize the bejesus out of it.

  7. Mr. Portalatin, is maybe 1 out of 10 A&P's that would take it as far as he did. Losing his job. In the end, the FAA gets involved, company gets "spanked", and the FAA says great job kid . Thanks for reporting, sorry we can't do anything for ya. So the other 9 A&P's see this, and from then on say nothing if they find themselves in a similar situation. Kick the can down the road. In the past, the A&P would write it up and hand the pen to his Manager with an A&P certificate - he can sign it off. Oh, and by the way, quote the manual reference in the sign off.

  8. From my sources, it certainly appears Mr. Portalatin has a great lawsuit.
    His documentation is excellent;
    He spelled out the consequences;
    He explained his position clearly;
    He refers to specific instances and pattern of conduct;
    He is accurate in accounts;
    He explained the effect of the problems and issues with his superiors;
    He defined the issues and problems;
    He maintained contemporaneous records;
    Etc., etc., etc.

    Mr. Portalatin's former employer made a bad situation worse.

  9. While the cops are busy collecting fat paychecks and giving themselves medals, the everyday unsung heroes stand on the unemployment line.

  10. I was a Pilot for Clubjet. Was officially employed and paid by propilots. The Luthens are very dirty when it comes to ,aintenance and adherence to FAA federal regulations. They expect mechanics and pilots to put their certificates on the line for the companies bottom line.
    All the while the Feds never notice and those that speak up are rarely noticed. It will take a tragedy like a senators daughter to be killed in a crash with one of Clubjet's airplanes for their operations to be scrutinized.


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