AAR Airlift chairman refutes safety allegations

Palmetto Business Daily's recent article on the DynCorp and AAR Airlift dispute has ruffled the feathers of the latter, prompting a letter in which the chairman of AAR dismissed allegations of his company's wrongdoing while highlighting errors he claims his competitor has made.

Don Wetekam's letter listed AAR Airlift's accomplishments in the areas of mechanics, repair and work on aircraft.   File photo

Palmetto Business Daily's recent article on the DynCorp and AAR Airlift dispute has ruffled the feathers of the latter, prompting a letter in which the chairman of AAR dismissed allegations of his company's wrongdoing while highlighting errors he claims his competitor has made.

Don Wetekam, chairman of AAR Airlift said readers deserve to hear "the full story," saying the record portrays the contractor as nearly faultless in the past. 

"The alleged safety issue against AAR Airlift – a world-wide expeditionary aircraft provider – relates to a single contract to operate S-61 helicopters on one airfield in Afghanistan," Wetekam wrote. 

The Department of Defense has reported that the airlift company allegedly made the same mistake twice, coming close to clipping a soccer goal post on two separate occasions. 

"AAR is considered a safe airline by the U.S. government, for whom we have carried troops and cargo for years all over the world, including Afghanistan and Africa," Wetekam wrote. "AAR Airlift remains committed to safety and is working closely with the Command Authority to resolve the safety issue noted."

Even though the company's mistakes resulted in a ban from a critical airfield in Afghanistan, Wetekam pointed to the company's heritage, including the achievements of parent company AAR Corp. 

"AAR Airlift and all of the aviation services businesses of its parent company AAR Corp. have a strong safety record," Wetekam said. 

The letter listed accomplishments in the areas of mechanics, repair and work on aircraft, and referenced the acquisition of Presidential Airways which AAR took the helm of in 2010.

The relationship between AAR and Blackwater was readily dismissed as false information in the company's letter to Palmetto Business Daily, even though The Daily Beast reported that Blackwater's aviation arm, EP Aviation (named after Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater) had sold its assets to AAR. 

"AAR has absolutely no affiliation with Blackwater and its troubled history and to allege so is totally inaccurate," Wetekam wrote.

In addition to his displeasure with Palmetto Business Daily's assessment of AAR's reliability, Wetekam said DynCorp has spent two years attempting to delay the Worldwide Aviation Support Service (WASS) contract's awarding while earning $30 million per month as the incumbent. 

"Bottom line is that this is a last-ditch attempt by DynCorp to circumvent current legal proceedings in the Court of Federal Claims against the Department of State’s decision to award the WASS contract to AAR and despite (Government Accountability Office) denials or dismissals of eight prior DynCorp protest actions," Wetekam wrote. 

The letter ended on a note of optimism about AAR's future with the U.S. government. 

"AAR looks forward to providing superior service and support on this very important program for the Department of State," Wetekam wrote.

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