FAA fines Lawrenceville-based air ambulance $1 million

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Federal Aviation Administration has fined a Lawrenceville-based air ambulance company $1 million as a civil penalty for operating as an air carrier without the appropriate certificate.

The fine is part of a settlement reached after the FAA ordered the company to stop its operations on May 19 because it found Medway Air Ambulance had entered into an agreement with Annapolis, Md.-based American Flight Group that violated FAA regulations, according to an FAA statement.

American Flight Group was allowing Medway and other companies to use its air carrier certificate for a monthly fee - which can cost several thousand dollars - even though the other companies had operational control over those flights and their crews.

The FAA has revoked the air carrier certificate for American Flight Group, the federal agency said.

Medway applied for its own certificate in 2004 - a lengthy process that took almost two years to complete.

Meanwhile, it followed a common practice in the aviation industry known as "piggybacking," or operating under the legitimate air carrier certificate of another company, said Medway owner and president Rick Moore. His planes and personnel were always FAA certified through the Maryland company.

''Safety was never compromised,'' Moore said.

"People are going to see this as though we were operating without a license. That is simply not true."

Medway obtained its own certificate July 21 and resumed operations, Moore said.

The FAA said it continually investigates cases where air carriers allow other companies to operate under their certificate and have operational control over flights.

''These cases send a strong message that the FAA strictly enforces its safety regulations and will take action in situations where an air carrier is engaged in the franchising or rental of its air carrier certificate,'' FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey said in the statement.