GREENSBORO — Safety concerns after a fiery crash have led one company to ground its fleet of HondaJets and an owner/operator association to urge a “break from flying activities” and additional training.
Greensboro-based Jet It founder and CEO Glenn Gonzales ordered the company’s 20 HondaJets grounded on Friday in response to a crash the previous day.
No Injuries (5 onboard) early hours of this morning landing over run .. hydro plained on wet runway N255HJ HondaJet KDYB Summerville SC .. burned out after passengers got out .. pic.twitter.com/yEeJRV2q1l— bizjets101 (@bizjets101) May 20, 2023
An HA-420 HondaJet registered to Upfrunt Services LLC ran off the runway in Summerville, S.C., struck a berm and caught fire on Thursday. The pilot and four passengers were able to escape and were uninjured, according to news reports.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. The plane had taken off from the Wilkes County Airport in western North Carolina.
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“The images really shook our company. They shook our flight ops leadership. They shook our training department,” said Gonzales, whose business operates and maintains private jets, most of them with shared ownership.
“We also want to understand why there have been a number of aircraft, including our own airplanes, that have had runway excursions and veered off the runway at times,” said Gonzales, a former sales manager for HondaJet.
“We recognize that we have a responsibility to our fractional share owners to make sure that they're safe, make sure our team members are safe,” he said.
In a YouTube posted by HondaJet Owners & Pilots Association this week, the nonprofit’s executive director points to the “recent rise in incidents or accidents involving HondaJet.
“There have been eight in the last 12 months,” Julie Hughes said in the video, noting the association is collaborating with HondaJet and Flight Safety International on the issue.
“As part of our efforts we will be organizing a safety stand down, an organized break from flying activities where we will engage and focus on safety discussions,” Hughes said in the video. The News & Record could not reach Hughes directly for comment.
Kie Nagasawa, a spokeswoman for Honda Aircraft Co., which is headquartered in Greensboro, said via email that neither the company nor any aviation authority has recommended grounding the aircraft.
“In all closed investigations of previous runway events, investigators found no causal factors from the aircraft's design or any system malfunction,” Nagasawa said. “Our engineering and analysis supports our product as a safe aircraft to operate.”
Nagasawa also said the “safety stand down” referred to in the association’s YouTube video was talking about a voluntary training session and not a call to ground the aircraft.
“It may be quite misleading due to Jet It’s recent quote referring “Safety Standdown” as “grounding,” she said.
As for the South Carolina crash, Nagasawa said the company is supporting the investigation and did not have further details about it.
Hassan Shahidi, president and CEO of the independent, nonprofit Flight Safety Foundation, said the plane hydroplaned while landing on the S.C. runway.
“I would not at this point jump to a conclusion that there's a problem with the aircraft," Shahidi said. He noted there are many factors that can contribute to these crashes, including wind and weather conditions, the condition of the runways, the amount of moisture on the runway surface and the experience and training of the pilot.
“We do not see a pattern,” Shahidi said of his organization, which aims to identify aviation safety issues on a global level.
Gonzales said grounding his HondaJets will require employee furloughs.
“Eight-five percent of our fleet consists of HondaJet so essentially our ability to function and feed our entire business has been severely limited by this decision,” he said.
“We really need their (HondaJet’s) support in this, they are the experts on the airplane. We are simply taking the stance that we want to make sure that, as the largest HondaJet fleet operator, we are taking the proper precautions and operating with a great abundance of caution.”