FAA investigating Craven Airport on training violations: Committee appointed to look into problems; a full evaluation to follow in May
(Sun Journal (New Bern, NC)(KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 14--The Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta is investigating allegations of live-fire training violations at Craven County Regional Airport.
A letter from the FAA Southern Region's Airport Division gives the airport 10 days to submit a written statement responding to information that the airport's rescue and firefighting personnel have not received appropriate live-fire training, which could be a violation of airport safety rules.
The letter from the FAA's Airport Certification and Safety Inspector to airport operations director Jerry Kilborn is dated April 11. An FAA spokesman said the letter from Patrick L. Rogers II was faxed to the airport late Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, airport officials were already addressing similar accusations made locally by Joe Hennessey, a part-time crash fire and rescue staffer.
Hennessey appealed to the airport authority March 21, Craven County Board of Commissioners April 3 and the airport authority again Tuesday night when he tendered his resignation, asking for higher pay for starting crew to help deal with unstable staffing and periodic training deficiencies.
Airport authority Chairman Jim Creech appointed a committee Tuesday to be chaired by Curtis Bare with members Scott Dacey and Fletcher Watts to look into the problems Hennessey alleges.
Interim airport director John Price said staff will look into the issue, provide information for the committee and take immediate action to correct any problems.
"We feel right now we do have a safe and viable operation that provides for the safety and security of the people who use this airport, and that is our continuing objective," Price said.
Departing airport director Larry Scantlin told the authority Tuesday the problems investigated by the FAA on two occasions since 2004 have been solved. Copies of communications between Scantlin and the FAA show that the investigations did not establish violations.
One of the solutions involved the airport purchasing a $450,000 fire truck to replace a 20-year-old truck.
"They should have bought that 10 years ago," said Hennessey, a 21 1/2–year airport employee and 26-year Cherry Point air traffic controller. "An FAA grant pays 95 percent. They only had to pay 5 percent. It's ridiculous."
He told the authority he was the one who informed the FAA that prompted the earlier investigation and intends to press hard to get airport safety problems corrected. He said he wanted to quit his part-time job before he got fired.
Asked Wednesday why he thought he would be fired as a result of speaking out, Hennessey said "the other day somebody called to get all the info I have on my laptop," including the airport security plan, certification manual, wildlife hazard management and rules and regulations.
Hennessey said he intends to turn over the electronic documents and in no way handicap the airport by his departure April 19.
"My mind is that airport management and board members only want to spend what is necessary to meet minimum standards," he said. "I put airport safety first. I probably would not personally have civil liability for inadequate response to a crash, but morally, ethically, yes, because I've known this is going on.
"Even though I'm leaving, I'll have sources," he said. "I think it is wrong policy where an employee has to sacrifice his job to get the board's attention and the airport in compliance."
According to an e-mail, Rogers will do a preliminary investigation at the airport before a scheduled annual inspection May 17 and 18, when he said he would make a full evaluation.
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