Saturday 24 March 2018

Watchdog raises concerns after State jet parts sold

US firm that purchased State jet also bought uncertified spares from Department of Defence

A Gulfstream IV jet similar to the government jet sold in 2015
A Gulfstream IV jet similar to the government jet sold in 2015

Simon Rowe

The Comptroller and Auditor General has raised aviation safety concerns over the State's sale of uncertified spare parts to the US firm that also purchased the former government jet.

Florida-based Journey Aviation bought the aircraft spare parts from the Department of Defence for €53,000, a few months after buying the former government jet in January 2015. But 55 of the 87 spare parts did not have certification documentation - a safety requirement for use in global civil aviation.

In a series of emails seen by this newspaper, the aviation company subsequently spent months trying to get the certification documents sent to the US, but to no avail.

After three months of email requests from bosses at Journey Aviation to senior defence officials, the company was told in December 2015: "Apart from the documentation you have already received, there is nothing further we can offer you on certification on the parts. The spare parts were sold in 'as seen' condition. I am sorry the news is not more positive."

The revelation adds to the ongoing controversy over the handling of the sale of the former government jet, which took place in the absence of a competitive sales process. The deal has already been looked at by the Comptroller and Auditor General, and more recently by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee.

Bought by the state in 1992 for €45m, the 14-seater Gulfstream IV jet was sold for €415,000 in 2015. Its new owners have recommissioned the aircraft and it is insured for $5m (€4.6m).

The Air Corps had estimated the value of the spare parts to be €405,000 before they were sold to the US firm.

In documents seen by this newspaper, the Comptroller and Auditor General raised concerns with Department of Defence officials about the potential risks of using aviation spare parts that did not have certification documentation.

In an email reply to questions from the state's spending watchdog, a senior Air Corps officer confirmed to defence officials that "it is a mandatory requirement that all aircraft parts must have certification in order to be fitted to an aircraft. It is against all aviation regulations for parts to be fitted to an aircraft without correct certification. Parts are not/cannot be fitted to an aircraft without certification."

It is an acknowledged civil aviation industry standard that certification documentation is crucial to validate that aircraft spare parts conform to international standards, and conform to the design specification for the aircraft and are fit for use.

Irish Aviation Authority civil aviation rules state that "any part not accompanied by the appropriate documentation should be considered to be unapproved".

But last June, the Comptroller and Auditor General asked defence officials "why was the certification documentation not available for all the spares?", and "what are the risks of using spare parts that do not have certification documentation?".

In response, the department stated that certification was not an issue as it had relied on a 'sold as seen' condition in the sales agreement, under which no warranties or guarantees were given.

But on the question about air safety, an Air Corps official wrote: "We would only use certified parts on any Air Corps aircraft."

A Department of Defence spokeswoman told this newspaper: "The parts were sold on an 'as seen' basis, and in such circumstances, it is a matter for the purchaser to deal with any regulatory issues for the re-use of the parts, including certification."

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