June 19, 2017
Florida Pilot Pleads Guilty To Operating an Aircraft With an Illegally Modified Fuel System
On June 19, 2017, Guy St. Amour, Pembroke Pines, Florida, pled guilty in U.S. District Court, Fort Lauderdale, to operating an aircraft with an illegally modified fuel system. St. Amour was previously indicted on these charges in January 2017.
St. Amour, an FAA-certificated airline transport pilot, modified an aircraft’s fuel system and operated the aircraft without FAA authorization with the intent to fly to Paraguay.
On or about March 27, 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) received information that an aircraft with a modified fuel system was preparing to depart Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport en route to Asuncion, Paraguay. DEA Agents observed a large marine fuel tank in the rear of the cabin, held in place with a ratchet strap. A clear hose connected the tank to the wing of the airplane. The exposed tubing was held in place with duct tape, and the transfer of fuel was to be powered by a 12-volt accessory plug from a pump to the plane’s cigarette lighter jack. The investigation disclosed that the fuel tank modification had not been approved by FAA, did not comply with FAA regulations, and was not an acceptable aviation fuel tank installation.
The guilty plea followed a pre-trial motion filed by St. Amour in which he alleged that “operation of an aircraft” can only mean “actual flight.” The court denied the motion and affirmed a broader interpretation of “operation of an aircraft” to include taxiing, fueling, and other ground-based preparation maneuvers.
DOT-OIG worked this investigation with DEA with assistance from FAA.