Houston, TX

Jury holds Webster aviation company accountable for violating FAA regulations

Jason Martinez

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HOUSTON, TX — Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery announced that Ascent Aviation Solutions LLC and its owner have been demanded to pay nearly $240,000 in penalties for violating safety regulations.

The Webster-based company has been operated by Michael King, a direct air carrier, without the obligatory Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.

A direct air carrier is someone who provides air transportation and sustains control over the operational functions performed in providing the transportation. As a direct air carrier, one must hold an FAA-issued certificate after demonstrating they meet the necessary requirements.

The jury heard that Ascent utilized what is known in the industry as a “dry lease” to bypass the FAA requirements for direct air carriers. Under the “dry lease”, the lessee leases the equipment and is responsible for all aspects of operational control of the plane. The authorities learned about the illegal charter operation and checked on one of the flights.

At the time, they discovered an evidence of a fake lease agreement between themselves and an unsuspecting third party that did not have operational control of the plane. The testimony revealed that he only paid Ascent to fly him from one city to another. Ascent also preserved operational control of the aircraft, which means that Ascent handled all flight logistics, including recruiting the pilots.

An in-depth investigation then revealed that King and Ascent had operated fourteen unregulated charter flights that had the potential to imperil public safety. Ultimately, the jury held King and his company accountable for violating 14 FAA regulations, including one for the negligent and reckless operation of a plane. They were instructed to pay $239,872.

This investigation was conducted by the FAA, while Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ariel N. Wiley, Julie Redlinger and Keith Wyatt represented the United States during the proceedings.

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