12 News Investigations: Magee airport under review

MAGEE, Miss. (WJTV) – Brien Hubbard is flying out of Magee City Airport to and from Atlanta, but lately he’s been feeling unsafe. In February, he had a fuel leak.

“A mechanic came in because I had a fuel leak, and we found sediment in the gascolator of the helicopter,” said pilot Brien Hubbard.

Hubbard said he then discovered that the filter in the airport’s fuel system had not been changed in more than six months.

“It shows that the elements were changed in August 2020. It also shows when it was due to be changed in August 2021. This is a very serious security issue and is the reason why the filter was not changed , that’s why there was sediment in my fuel tank,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard said sediment in a fuel tank can cause an engine to stall.

Sediments or foreign substances can be catastrophic. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled on a 2012 plane crash in Jackson where three people were the result of water found in a fuel tank.

Hubbard raised his safety concerns at the Feb. 15 city council meeting.

“I wrote a letter to the city management, the mayor and the council of aldermen at large and read my letter to them about my concerns and the reluctance of the city management to manage the service of the city. airport because of the relationship of an alderman and the airport manager.”

Ashley Steele has been an airport manager for about 17 years. She is the step-niece of former councilman Lane Steele.

“He was not present when I was hired. He apologized for all aspects of this. and I’m not a department head and I’m only related to him by marriage so he had nothing to do with my hiring so I would say that’s not why I’m in the job” , Steele said.

The mayor told us that the airport started when five businessmen wanted a place to keep their planes and someone to watch them. the airport manager lives on the property. Steele said she was qualified for the job or she wouldn’t have been hired.

“The qualities required for a manager are to maintain the airport to keep the grounds clean. I must not touch an airplane. it’s self-service. My only job is to keep the fuel they can buy and to keep the grounds and buildings clean and up to code,” Steele said.

The airport insists that the fuel contains no contaminants.

“Right now we checked our fuel. Our samples are clean. It is currently being sent to the lab to be tested for contaminants that you cannot see. when we order fuel, the company does tests before bringing it to us. »

Hubbard’s concerns about the airport date back to August 2019, when he claims nothing was posted and the fuel tank was empty. A second pilot also filed a complaint with the FAA.

“When you fly, you can’t park on the side of the road. I don’t know how to express how serious the safety issue is for pilot safety,” Hubbard said.

According to the FAA, an air mission advisory, also known as a notam, alerts pilots to potential hazards along the route of flight.

“I don’t know why he says they’re not there because whenever he told me, I can call notam and they tell me exactly what my notam says. so the notams are published, the notams are verified.

Steele said the airport is maintained daily, but Hubbard says there are no logs or schedules to show the work is being done.

The FAA would not comment on the matter except to confirm that it is aware of the allegations and is investigating the complaints.

The FAA will try to determine if the airport is in violation of its airport improvement grant and then develop a corrective action plan for the city of Magee. The FAA could suspend a discretionary grant if it finds the airport in non-compliance. The suspension would remain in effect until the airport returns to compliance.

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