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Director of Maintenance Sentenced to House Arrest for Obstructing NTSB and FAA Aircraft Accident Investigation

On June 23, 2017, David Esteves was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Tampa, Florida, to 8 months’ house arrest for obstructing the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during an aircraft accident investigation. Esteves was also sentenced to 36 months’ probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
In 2012, Esteves was employed as the director of maintenance at Avantair, a fractional ownership airline and air taxi service based at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in Clearwater, Florida. On July 28, 2012, a part known as an “elevator” fell off an Avantair plane as it was departing Camarillo, California. An aircraft has two elevators that control its ability to move up or down. The plane landed in San Diego, picked up passengers, and took off for Henderson, Nevada, although its left elevator was missing. During the flight to Henderson, the pilot reported problems that were captured by the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
After the aircraft landed in Henderson, but before the arrival of NTSB and FAA investigators, Esteves instructed a contractor to remove the nuts, bolts, and right elevator to intentionally prevent the investigators from examining the condition of the right elevator. In addition, Esteves instructed the contractor to power up the plane to erase the CVR.
This case was investigated with the assistance from FAA and NTSB.