Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tulare County Sheriff hires new pilot: Air Unit will return to action after tragic crash

Air Boudreaux will soon be back in service.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux welcomed five new employees to the Sheriff’s Department on Monday, including the new sheriff’s pilot, Michelle Simoes. She will fly the Sheriff’s airplane that will arrive in May.

Simoes thanked Boudreaux for giving her the opportunity to get the department’s Aviation Unit back up and flying following the tragic plane crash of Sheriff One on Feb. 10.

Killed in the crash were Sheriff’s Pilot James Chavez and Tactical Flight Officer Scott Ballantyne.

Simoes said she knew Chavez well. In fact, he trained her to fly the two-seater light sport aircraft, the same airplane chosen first by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and later by the Kings County Sheriff’s Office.

“James was a fantastic pilot,” she said. “I’m honored to fill those shoes.”

For Boudreaux, hiring Simoes helps the Sheriff’s Office heal by moving forward with the Aviation Program after losing Chavez and Ballantyne in the crash near Springville.

“It’s a big day for us to heal and yet to remember those we lost,” he said. “Getting the plane back in the air is good for us.”

Simoes’ role as a sheriff’s pilot is to support deputies on the ground. Communication is vital between the ground and the officers in the airplane.
“I’m looking forward to supporting the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and getting the new plane off the ground,” she said.

The airplane provides another tool for law enforcement in an effort to keep the community safe. According to a press release, the “Eyes in the Sky” help deputies on the ground locate criminals and find lost children and at-risk adults, as well as patrol the county’s farmlands looking for criminals.
Simoes, 48, was born and raised in Visalia. She lives in Tipton with her husband, They have a 23-year-old son.

Before Simoes became a pilot, she helped run the family business and was a homemaker.

Her desire to fly was sparked when her younger sister won a free introductory flight lesson. Simoes said she thought she would like to fly herself. Later, she found a flight instructor and began her own lessons while her son was in school in 2004.

“I threw myself into my new passion,” she said.

She obtained her private, commercial, instrument, multi-flight dispatcher and airline transportation pilot certifications.

One of her inspirations to fly was the late Amelia Earhart, an American aviation pioneer. Simoes said she relates to this quote from Earhart: “I don’t know how far I can go, so I will go until I can’t go any farther.”

When Simoes had the opportunity to join the Kings County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit on a volunteer basis, she jumped at the chance. She helped start the aviation program there in early 2015 and was one of the pilots who flew the new plane to Hanford.

Also sworn in on Monday were inmate programs specialist Elena Ledezma, emergency dispatcher Carlos Inacio, and correctional deputies Enrique Diaz and Kenrick Silvas.

Original article can be found here:

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA067

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 10, 2016 in Springville, CA
Aircraft: FLIGHT DESIGN GMBH CTLS, registration: N911TS
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 10, 2016, at 1617 Pacific standard time, a Flight Design CTLS airplane, N911TS, while flying at low altitude entered a hard left turn and descended into terrain 4 miles southwest of Springville, California. The airline transport pilot and single passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed by a post-crash fire. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the Tulare County Sheriff as a public aircraft under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules company flight plan. The flight originated from Visalia Municipal Airport, Visalia, California, approximately 1440 as a local flight.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane circling a nearby area then depart to the southwest. The airplane made a left turn, the wings dipped left and right, then the airplane descended into the ground in a sideways wing down orientation. The engine was heard operating in a steady tone until ground impact. A post-crash fire ensured, destroying the airplane.

The Porterville Municipal Airport automated weather observation system-3 (AWOS-3), located 11 miles southwest of the accident site, at an elevation of 443 feet mean sea level, recorded at 1556, wind from 300 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, and altimeter setting of 30.18 inHg.

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