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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Multiple Fingers Pointed in Fuel Dispute

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The lawsuits are piling up in the case of alleged fuel contamination disrupting two businesses in Hawaii’s helicopter tour industry. Attorneys representing Air Kauai and Island Helicopters have filed a $3-million breach of contract lawsuit against Tesoro Hawaii, claiming the fuel provider sold them tainted Jet-A aviation gas that allegedly caused helicopter engines to bind up, preventing them from restarting properly and causing a loss of business. Tesoro is the exclusive distributor of Jet-A fuel on Kauai.

Tesoro, however, has filed a counterclaim against the two helicopter operators and the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), saying the fuel, which was refined in Oahu and transported to Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor, was likely contaminated by the DOT equipment that it was stored in and dispensed with at a fuel hydrant system at Lihue Airport.

The state has filed a counterclaim against Tesoro, Turbomeca and Turbomeca’s parent company, Safran Group, alleging fuel production issues, engine problems or a combination of both is responsible for the excessive engine coking Air Kauai and Island Helicopter’s Eurocopter fleets are having.

No accidents or injuries have been associated with this matter. The fuel hydrant system was shutdown by Hawaii and the Federal Aviation Administration and, as of this writing, remains closed.

It appears that, unless a settlement is reached, the earliest trial date for the first case would probably not occur until fall 2009.

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