Certified safety trainer sheds light on refueling mistakes at smaller airports

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side is continuing to investigate after a small plane crash that killed a Tampa Bay area surgeon in Kokomo, Indiana.

Dr. Daniel Greenwald was flying a Piper Aerostar 602P in central Indiana when he crashed in a field in October. The 59-year-old died from blunt-force trauma in the crash, according to an Indiana coroner.

NTSB officials say jet fuel was put into the plane Greenwald was flying instead of the regular aviation gasoline that should have been used. 8 On Your Side spoke with aviation experts who tell us jet fuel would have caused the engine to quit.

8 On Your Side investigates later learned the fueling technician in Dr. Greenwald’s case was hired by the city on Aug. 26, 2019. The college student was paid $11 an hour. His previous experience included jobs at the YMCA and Burger King but nothing in the aviation field.

For weeks, we’ve been working to determine how this deadly crash could have potentially been prevented.

“The fuel safety training program through the FAA started Jan. 1 of 1990,” said Paul Calderwood, a fuel handler safety trainer. “The FAA has a program in place. I’ve always said I can’t understand why it isn’t across the board.”

According to an Advisory Circular obtained by 8 On Your Side Investigates, the FAA can require specific training at big airports like Tampa International but they can only make recommendations at smaller airports.

In that case, it is up to the facility to oversee the training of its technicians.

As we wait for the NTSB’s final investigative report, 8 On Your Side has been asking the FAA about its oversight of technician’s at smaller airports. The agency says it doesn’t have the regulatory authority to oversee training at smaller facilities.

A spokesman sent us the following statement:

“Through 14 CFR Part 139, the FAA has regulatory authority for airports that have scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats and/or scheduled air carrier operations in aircraft with more than 9 seats but less than 31 seats. These airports are required to have an Airport Operating Certificate and are inspected on a routine basis. The FAA does not have the regulatory authority to require or inspect airports that do not meet these criteria. Advisory Circulars are made available to all airports in order for them to know the safest ways to operate an airport and this would include fueling operations.

Some state aviation authorities do conduct inspections, but under their regulations, not the FAA’s. The following statement is from Florida’s Department of Transportation, Aviation Division website: All private airports in the State of Florida must comply with “site approval” and “registration” requirements. There is no requirement for inspection and licensing of private-use airports, either private or public-owned. However, airports open to public-use, private or public-owned, must comply with Florida’s “inspection” and “licensing” requirements. An option exists, however, allowing for inspection and licensing of private-use airports that meet certain state specified criteria. There are no fees for these services.”

Meanwhile, Calderwood says pilots must watch every single move of technicians during the refueling process.

“If they do it wrong, and you have a problem, there’s no place to pull over up there,” he said.

8 On Your Side will continue to follow this story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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