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Port Authority Blames Greed for Jet Crash

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey claim the 2005 plane crash at Teterboro airport was caused by an airline illegally "tankering" fuel, or loading so much extra fuel it made the jet "difficult or impossible to control." The Port Authority claims Platinum Jet Management's CEO instructed pilots "to maximize charter profits by 'tankering' fuel ... where PJM had fueling contracts for comparatively cheap fuel prices, including Teterboro airport."

The Port Authority sued Platinum, three other corporations and the jet's pilot and first officer in Bergen County Court.

The Port Authority claims "tankering" caused Feb. 2, 2005 crash in which a Platinum-owned jet crashed "though an airport perimeter fence, across a six-lane highway and into a parking lot" before smashing into a building. Twenty people were injured, including 11 on the plane.

Also named as defendants are Darby Aviation, Global Aerospace, 448 Alliance LLC, the jet's pilot John Kimberling and first officer of Carlos Salaverria.

The Port Authority claims the two men were not properly qualified and licensed.

According to the complaint, Platinum CEO Michael Brassington "would instruct PJM's pilots to maximize charter profits by 'tankering' fuel ... where PJM had fueling contracts for comparatively cheap fuel prices, including Teterboro airport."

They Port Authority claims the company did this "even when such tankering causes the aircraft to exceed their maximum allowable takeoff and landing weights and forward center or gravity limits," which endangered "the safety of the aircraft during takeoff, flight and landing."

Brassington, however, is not named as a defendant.

The flight scheduled to fly Chicago on Feb. 2, 2005 was "over-fueled so that its center of gravity exceeded its forward limit for takeoff," which caused it to crash on the runway before it went airborne, according to the complaint.

The Port Authority claims a "subsequent investigation of the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the pilot ... was not qualified ... to fly commercial flights."

The Port Authority also claims that first officer Salaverria "did not possess a valid medical certificate for commercial operations" and "lacked the requisite training required," including 31 hours of training.

The Port Authority claims that Darby Aviation "piggybacked" its certificate to Platinum, meaning that Platinum operated its flights under Darby Aviation's certificate with the Port Authority.

Not named in this case is Andre Budhan, a co-founder of Florida-based Platinum, who admitted in 2009, after a federal indictment, that the company flew for a year without proper certification, flying more than 100 uncertified flights from 2002 to 2003.

Defendant Global Aerospace insured Platinum and "has failed to settle the plaintiff's claim for property damage and addition costs arising out of the accident," according to the complaint.

The Port Authority seeks damages for negligence, breach of contract and reimbursement of money spent on "emergency response costs and settlement costs with surrounding municipalities." It is represented by Benjamin Noren of Jersey City.

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