The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded Timberview Helicopters sightseeing tours due to multiple safety violations.
"They did an unannounced inspection and they failed on a bunch of the items," said City Councilman Jim Foreman, who is a former helicopter pilot. "Helicopters are high maintenance items."
In an Aug. 29 letter addressed to Timberview Owner Justin Johnson, the FAA notes that the tourism helicopter company's Letter of Authorization (LOA) has been revoked. Essentially, the LOA granted Timberview the ability to conduct commercial tour operations under federal aviation regulations.
The decision to revoke Timberview's LOA was "based upon the administrator's determination that safety and the public interest would not be served by allowing the continuation of Timberview's LOA. The administrator has determined that an emergency exists requiring immediate action."
For his part, Johnson told The Log via email "The reason for this is to move my home office to the Florida Flight District Office."
The address on the FAA's paperwork for Timberview Helicopters Inc., lists Wellsville, Kansas. He did not address the reports of safety violations or respond to a request to elaborate.
However, Liz Cory from the FAA's central region public affairs office in Kansas City told The Log that a move of office was not the reason for the letter being issued. She said it was due to safety concerns.
"We've been studying this most of the year," Cory said.
The investigation led to an inspection that was conducted on multiple helicopters at the Destin Airport in April. The FAA concluded that "numerous discrepancies" compromised aviation safety.
One of those discrepancies was a cut wire that provided power to the aircrafts Hobbs meter, which is a device that records aircraft time-in-service. The letter notes that adjacent wires in the same bundle were in "as-new condition."
Other violations included the failure to record entries for oil changes and oil filters; flights taking place without proper inspections; and flights taking place with "un-airworthy" blades installed.
One of the aircraft (N7530Z) was flown 126.3 hours "beyond mandated replacement" of tail rotor blades. Records show, according to the FAA letter, that the helicopter flew multiple flights between August 2012 and March 2013 with the un-airworthy blades.
Representatives from the FAA told The Log that the letter only revokes Timberview's ability to conduct "commercial air tour" operations. They are allowed to conduct other commercial operations, such as banner towing. Also, the company can still take off and land from its barge, as long as they are not performing a commercial operation.
Timberview, which is currently based out of the Destin Airport, has been taking off and landing from various locations throughout the city of Destin since they first began offering flights a few years ago. Sites included the Destin Commons parking lot and a barge that rotates between the Destin harbor, East Pass and Crab Island.
Timberview, which was originally granted a LOA in 2009, can reapply for a LOA to conduct commercial air tours when the issues detailed in the letter have been corrected, according to the FAA.