Congressmen Want MU-2 Grounded After 7NEWS' Investigation

Members of Congress are asking the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the Mitsubishi MU-2 aircraft pending an investigation into the dozens of crashes that have killed hundreds of people.

The FAA has refused to talk with 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia about his investigation into the airplane's safety record. But Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Tom Tancrado are pressuring the FAA to take immediate action.

More than 10 percent of all Mitsubishi's MU-2s ever built have been involved in fatal accidents. More than 300 people have died.

Salazar has been sending letters to the FAA.

"It would make sense for them to ground the aircraft until they have completed their investigation and then set forth their recommendations," said Salazar.

A 7NEWS investigation has found that, based on an aircraft industry report prepared for the International Business Aviation Association, the average fatal accident rate for the MU-2 in North America for a five-year period from 2000 through 2004 was more than triple the average of other turboprop models in its class.

And the report noted the overall accident rate of the MU-2 to be about 78 percent higher.

"It tells me that we have got a serious problem here," said Tancredo.

Tancrado has also been pressing the FAA for answers but has gone a step further and called on Mitsubishi to voluntarily ground the MU-2.

"There has to be some answers before the next plane takes off," Tancredo said.

But Mitsubishi officials, who declined to be interviewed, say while their airplane has unique flying characteristics, it is safe. They cite National Transportation Safety Board reports that show most MU-2 crashes have been attributed to pilot error -- not to the plane.

"I do not believe it is all pilot error. The numbers are far too great," Tancredo said. "And if it's that difficult to fly, should we be flying it? I mean, if it is so hard to fly that you have to have some sort of incredible expertise, I would suggest that we should look into grounding it just for that reason if nothing else."

Many experts and family members who have lost loved ones in the MU-2 agree, saying training is not the issue. Rather, it is the design of the plane that is killing pilots.

"I think the FAA should definitely look at whether there is a design problem. I fully expect the FAA must be doing that in its current investigation," Salazar said.

"We're going to try and put some pressure on them and try to hold their feet to the fire and try to make sure we have this comprehensive review completed.

Even though congressional pressure is building from Colorado and elsewhere, the MU-2 is flying without restriction. There have been 11 accidents in the past 18 months killing 12 people. Even so, federal officials who first told Salazar their current investigation of the MU-2 would be completed in October now say it will be sometime this year.

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