Michael Francis Brassington, a Guyanese national and a former pilot of Turks and Caicos Islands premier Michael Misick.
He is allegedly a deserter from the Guyana Defense Forces.
He flew numerous celebrities, everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to Keith Richards, and from Burt Reynolds to Snoop Doggie Dogg.
Brassington ran Platinum Jet, an aviation charter company operating out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Brassington and his brother Paul are the nephews of Peter D'Aguiar. Their aunt was Peter D'Aguiar's wife.
They come from a powerful old English Guyanese Family that used to be very strong supporters of the United Force Party. But in recent years they seem to have joined forces with current President of Guyana, Jagdeo.
The Brassington family is well known in Guyana, a former British colony. Michael Brassington’s great-grandfather came from Britain and established sugar plantations & estates throughout Guyana. The family is well-known for their wealth and power.
"Uncle Peter," it was learned, controlled one of three major political parties in Guyana.
The Brassingtons are also cousins of Winston Brassington. "Cousin Winston" is, or was, Guyana's Minister for Privatisation, one of the most lucrative jobs in the world. He sold Guyana's bauxite reserves to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
After a five-week trial, a jury found Brassington guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of lying to federal investigators, and—in the most serious count, with a sentence of up to 20 years in prison—endangering the safety of an aircraft and its passengers.
In a sentencing memo , Asst. U.S. Atty Scott McBride asked the judge to sentence Brassington to 360 months, 30 years, in prison.
But U.S. District Judge Dennis M Cavanaugh said he did not believe regulatory violations caused the plane to crash, stating “I’m just not satisfied from the evidence I heard that the conduct alleged caused the plane to crash.” He sentenced Brassington to 30 months in Federal prison.
The Honorable David P. Small, the former British High Commissioner in British Guyana, had nice things to say about Brassington's entire family.
“I became well-acquainted with (the Brassington family) while I was British High Commissioner heading our diplomatic mission in Georgetown Guyana,” wrote Mr. Small.
He had, he stated, been “deeply impressed by their excellent manners.”
Brassington achieved a modest level of infamy shortly after the 9/11 attack. He had been the co-pilot of the Lear jet (N351WB) of Wally Hilliard, owner of the flight school where Mohamed Atta was then just beginning to learn to fly, when it was surrounded by DEA agents on a runway of Orlando Executive Airport.
The DEA Agents, toting submachine guns, found 43 lbs of heroin onboard the plane. Such an impressive amount is known in the drug trade as "heavy weight." The date was July 22, 2000. It was, said the local Orlando Sentinel, "the biggest bust of its kind in Central Florida history." It was also the biggest drug bust in history that no one has heard about since. During the trial for drug trafficking of two Venezuelans who'd chartered the Lear, testimony revealed that the plane had been making weekly flights to Venezuela and back, terminating each time at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, before it was busted. The plane was flying what's known as a "milk run." Yet, curiously, Brassington's name appears nowhere in the DEA affidavit filed with the Court relating the circumstances of the bust. Nor can it be found in other court documents. Still, aviation sources insisted Brassington had nonetheless been a pilot on the plane.
In early 2004 a chance encounter further illuminated Michael Brassington's curious connections to powerful people. While returning to the U.S. from the Bahamas, Brassington got into a dust-up with a rookie U.S. Customs Agent.
James Sanders was on duty, and in charge, although just a rookie, of Customs Inspection on the late shift at Fort Lauderdale International Airport when Brassington flew in one Tuesday night. While checking his luggage, Agent Sanders saw Brassington’s DEA narcotics record in the computer, even as Brassington was indignantly brandishing a letter in his face. The letter, signed by Gloria Marshall, the head of the "Information Disclosure Unit" of the "Mission Support Division" of the Dept. of Homeland Security, seemed designed to smooth Brassington's entry into the U.S.
“It was a strange occurrence," he said later in an interview. "So I hesitated. I said, wait a second. He has this official-looking letter that says they're going to take care of his record... But he still has an active record."
"I felt like a deer in the headlights," Sanders recalled.
Supervisors instructed him that Brassington's entries into the U.S. were handled only by agents from a still-unexplained U.S. Customs team called Operation Blue Lightening.
“I was looking at Brassington’s narcotics record on the computer,” says Sanders, still incredulous at the memory, “when he handed me a letter from Washington.” Confused, Sanders phoned a Supervisor at Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) whose name appeared in Brassington’s file. And that’s when ICE Supervisor Norm Bright, instructed him, Sanders states, that he should treat Brassington “as a grave threat to national security.”
Following his confrontation with Customs Agent Sanders, Brassington did something truly unusual. Despite having a “DEA look-out” for heroin trafficking next to his name; despite flying a plane (N60S) suspected of being used for money laundering; and despite carrying a passenger, Anthony Cirillo, flagged as a suspect in money laundering, he wrote a letter of complaint to the U.S. Customs Department in Washington D.C.
He addressed it to Jason Ahern, soon-to-be the Department's Acting Supervisor, and apparently just "got lucky" again. Ahern proved to be a sympathetic ear.
What happened to U. S. Customs Agent James Sanders after his encounter with Guyanese drug pilot Michael Brassington is the strongest possible argument for further investigation into what, as they say in Texas, "might could be" a continuing criminal conspiracy involving the corrupt elite of Guyana and their American opposites:
It cost him his job.
In the Teterboro crash, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott McBride said the pilots had not received the training to fly paying passengers, and the company simply ignored the records and safety requirements. "This was a charter company that disregarded all the rules," said McBride.
"They were operating by the seat of their pants, trimming around the edges of safety and regulatory compliance. It clearly rose to the level of fraud. There was a continuous pattern in their efforts to deceive their clients, their brokers and the FAA," said Michael Drewniak of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey.
Platinum flights, including one the day before the accident on Feb. 2, 2005, altered records to make it look as though the jet "was operated within weight and balance limitation when it may not have been."
"Essentially, they were cooking the books," the investigation charged.
"This is a basic airmanship, Flying 101-type of thing," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Steve Demko told the board.
NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker blasted the crew's decision-making as "truly, truly disturbing."
The captain's employment history was sketchy. He last held a full-time flying job eight months before the accident, and he’d been fired twice for poor judgment and decision-making. And although he claimed to have type ratings on six different aircraft types, he couldn't produce a flight log.
The co-pilot was worse. He hadn't completed training to serve as a first officer, and even if he had, as a citizen of Venezuela in the U.S. on a tourist visa, he was ineligible to serve as a commercial pilot.
The crew did not have a passenger manifest. And in violation of U.S. laws barring flights by foreign entities between two U.S. points, chief executive officer Michael Francis Brassington was not a U.S. citizen.
Greg Cirillo, July 2009
You could argue that no event, since the September 11, 2001 attacks has had a greater impact on the air charter business, financially and operationally, than the Platinum Jet excursion, which is credited with spurring the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) 2006 revised Op Spec A008 and related "operational control" audits. As the instigators of revised Op Spec A008 and audits, perhaps Platinum's founders should spend some time in a safe place.
It started innocently in the Winter of 2003, when Platinum Jet Management, LLC entered into an agreement with Darby Aviation Inc. of Sheffield, Alabama, to connect Darby's charter capabilities with Platinum's managed aircraft. Under this alliance, Platinum and Darby jointly operated over 100 revenue charter flights, including the ill-fated flight departing Teterboro Airport for Chicago Midway on a morning in February 2005. The Bombardier Challenger never left Teterboro that night, and instead ran off the end of the runway and the airport property.
Cited as contributing factors by the NTSB were Platinum's improper role in the aircraft's operation, and "the FAA's tacit approval of arrangements such as between Darby and [Platinum]." This last point is critical. When one federal agency calls out another one as having failed to perform its essential mission, you can expect action. In this case, that action was the revised Operations Specification 008 and a sweeping national audit initiative by the FAA to establish that it does not "tacitly approve" of arrangements of the type between Platinum and Darby.
The core issue that formed the basis of the federal enforcement activity was Platinum's offering of air transportation for hire, without holding the necessary economic authority or certification to do so. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) June 2006 Consent Order (2006-06-14) also noted that Platinum—as a non-U.S. controlled entity—could not have held the authority for its charter flight activity without further authorization, which it did not have. The DOT determined that Darby was essentially "renting" its certificate for a fee to Platinum, and that Platinum was far too actively involved in the offer, sale, initiation and conduct of charter flights. The facts seemed to support the DOT's views. But, Platinum claimed, the law and interpretations were not crystal clear, and in any event, Darby was the certificated, regulated entity and Platinum justly relied upon their approval and oversight.