The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $533,320 civil penalty against Steele Aviation of Beverly Hills, Calif., for allegedly conducting unauthorized charter flights using pilots who lacked required training.
This is the third civil penalty the FAA has proposed against Steele Aviation since 2017. In separate actions, the agency also suspended and later revoked the pilot certificates of Nicolas Steele, the president of Steele Aviation, and a pilot he employed.
In the most recent case, the FAA alleges Steele Aviation conducted at least 10 unauthorized for-hire flights between Jan. 28, 2019 and Feb. 14, 2019 using a Hawker HS-125-800 jet. Steele Aviation flew the same paying passenger to and from Burbank, Calif.; Boeing Field, Wash.; Teterboro, N.J.; Gary Chicago International Airport, Ill.; and Victoria, British Columbia.
The flights were unauthorized because Steele Aviation did not have an air carrier certificate; used pilots who had not passed required annual knowledge checks, annual flight-competency checks and undergone recurrent training; used an aircraft that was not on the operating specifications of any air carrier certificate; and did not have economic operating authority from the Department of Transportation, the FAA alleges.
Steele Aviation knew these flights were unauthorized because the FAA had taken enforcement action against the company twice previously for similar alleged violations, the FAA alleges.
The flights were careless or reckless and endangered lives and property, the FAA alleges.
The FAA has proposed two previous civil penalties against Steele Aviation for allegedly conducting unauthorized charter flights.
In December 2017, the FAA proposed a $167,500 civil penalty against the company for 37 allegedly unauthorized flights, and in October 2018, the FAA proposed a $624,000 civil penalty against the company for 16 allegedly unauthorized flights. Both cases are still pending.
In June 2017, the FAA suspended Nicolas Steele’s commercial pilot certificate for 120 days for acting as the second in command on a round-trip flight carrying a passenger for compensation without holding an air carrier certificate. At the same time, the FAA suspended the airline transport pilot certificate of Christian Monthy for acting as pilot in command on those same flights.
In April 2019, the FAA issued an emergency order revoking all certificates held by Nicolas Steele and Christian Monthy for piloting the 10 alleged unauthorized flights that are the subject of the most recent proposed civil penalty. Both men have appealed the revocations.
Steele Aviation has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.