Pilot Gets Prison Time in High-Profile Case

Platinum Jet pilot to serve a six-month sentence.

Challenger Big
Challenger Big

Former Platinum Jet pilot Francis Vieira, 61, was sentenced to six months in federal prison on Monday for his role in fraudulent activity that led up to the crash of a Challenger 600 charter jet in 2005, which veered off the runway after a failed takeoff attempt from Teterboro Airport.

During court hearings last year, Vieira, who was not piloting the jet at the time of the crash, admitted to falsifying weight-and-balance records on multiple occasions and to flying several commercial charter flights for Platinum Jet, even though the company didn’t have a Part 135 certificate.

Vieira is one of a handful of Platinum Jet employees charged with fraud and other counts related to the Teterboro incident, which occurred when the Challenger overran the runway, entered a major intersection and crashed into the side of a warehouse. While no one was killed, more than a dozen were injured and $30 to 40 million worth of damages was sustained.

Authorities determined that the airplane's center of gravity was too far forward at the time of the incident, and accused Vieira and other Platinum Jet employees of sacrificing weight-and-balance standards to fill up on cheap fuel at airports like Teterboro.

Despite pleas for mercy, U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh ordered the maximum allowed sentence for Vieira. After serving six months in prison, six additional months of house arrest and three years of supervised release, Cavanaugh said Vieira would be allowed to fly again. Three other Platinum Jet defendants are to be sentenced in the coming weeks.