April 17, 2009 — The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday prevented a Four Star Air Cargo plane from flying the mail between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FAA claimed the plane does not have a FAA-approved cargo restraint system.
"The FAA has not grounded the plane but it cannot fly cargo," FAA spokesman Kathleen Bergen said.
Four Star Chief Executive Officer Stuart Diamond, contacted at his office in Philadelphia, Penn., called it an effective grounding because the plane was set to fly the mail between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"The plane was in Puerto Rico at the mail ramp," he said.
He blamed the problem on Four Star's inability to find the documentation that proves the cargo restraint system is FAA-approved. He said the FAA inspected the plane last fall and requested that Four Star change the restraint system's straps. Diamond said Four Star complied.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Monica Hand said by e-mail only that "we are implementing contingencies and working to minimize impacts." Diamond said the Postal Service was finding another carrier to fly the mail between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Four Star can't resume cargo flights with this DC-3 airplane until it shows the FAA documentation that the cargo restraint system is FAA approved or it installs a new system, according to the FAA's Bergen.
The problem came to light during an FAA inspection in Puerto Rico. Bergen said the FAA does not know how long the restraint system had been installed on the plane. She said she didn't know the date of the last inspection.
"But it's the operator's responsibility to remain in compliance," she said.
Diamond called the issue a "personal vendetta" by the inspector against Four Star. "He has it in for us for reasons that are unclear," Diamond said.
According to Diamond, the same inspector grounded a Four Star plane last year for corrosion, but the problem turned out to be peeling paint.
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