Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunair still grounded more than four months after certificates suspended




Tauranga airline Sunair is still not back in the air after being grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority nearly five months ago.

The authority suspended Sunair's Air Operator Certificate, along with the Certificates of Airworthiness for the Sunair fleet, on September 8 for an initial 10-day period following a safety spot check under the Civil Aviation Act.

As of mid-January, the Air Operator Certificate remained suspended as did the airworthiness certificates for all but two of the 14-aircraft fleet.

A spokeswoman for the authority said the suspensions remained while Sunair worked through the issues, which included updating maintenance records and completing remedial maintenance activities.

Sunair owners Dan and Bev Powers were approached and said they could not comment at this stage, but hoped to be able to soon.

A post on the company Facebook page from January 8 said they were "expecting to be operating shortly".

The company provides charter and scenic flights around New Zealand, including on-demand flights to Motiti Island.

Motiti Island resident Rangi Butler said the service had been missed over Christmas when islanders had many friends and whanau visit.

When the daily scheduled Island Air flights were booked or the times did not suit, people just had to wait for the next flight rather than chartering a Sunair flight.

She was "saddened" Sunair's operations had been suspended as Powers had "been there for us for a long time", and because she thought having two airlines in competition "kept them honest".

Meanwhile an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest involving the authority board's former deputy chairman Peter Griffiths was expected to be completed last month.

Mary Scholtens QC was hired to conduct and independent investigation into the events leading up to Griffiths' September 14 resignation, which followed Sunair's suspension.

According to the terms of reference for her investigation, on September 8 board members were notified of the intended suspension.

Griffiths then had a conversation with management at Barrier Air, an airline he was a part-owner of, and suggested they contact Sunair to offer help meeting contractual agreements while they were suspended.

Barrier Air contacted Sunair some hours before Sunair was notified of its suspension.

Concerns were raised Griffith acted with a direct conflict of interest, may have attempted to influence regulators to promote his own needs, and used information he obtained as a board member to further his personal interests.

The investigation was initiated on November 8.

Sunair was previously grounded for a week in December 2016.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.nzherald.co.nz

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