Saturday, August 12, 2017

The scramble to secure a loan for People Express

Jim Bourey did not want surprises. On May 30, 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe was scheduled to visit Newport News for the announcement of the first flights by the startup airline People Express. But with just four days to go, the airline did not have the money it needed to start flying. Bourey stepped in to get things on track.

"What I need right away is to totally understand your financial position. I need an up-to-date, as of today, balance sheet," Bourey wrote in an email on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, to Jason Moulton, People Express' chief financial officer. At the time, Bourey was the city manager of Newport News and vice chairman of the Peninsula Airport Commission.

"We are really at a very critical stage with the announcement on Friday (with the Governor attending) and the conversations with banks. I cannot be surprised to learn anything given the nature of commitment that appears to be needed by the public sector."

City and airport officials had been working for two years to get People Express off the ground. By mid-May 2014, it was clear that People Express couldn't persuade investors to buy enough shares of its stock to raise the money it needed to hire planes — about $5 million.

The city, the airport and People Express turned to TowneBank for help — and TowneBank responded. It provided a $5 million line of credit — basically a corporate credit card — that People Express could draw from as needed.

But the bank did not put any of its own money at risk, because the airport commission agreed to guarantee the loan. If People Express defaulted, the airport would be on the hook for the money. And that's how it ultimately turned out — with the airport commission using $4.5 million of public money to pay off People Express' IOU.

Getting to that point, from idea to guarantee, took about two weeks of hurried meetings and a willingness to cut corners, a Daily Press review of thousands of pages of airport, state and city records shows. In the rush to secure financing for a long-shot, startup airline, there was little time to think about details and their implications.

When one key document finally did land at the commission seven weeks later, then-airport Executive Director Ken Spirito said he wouldn't have recommended the guarantee if he had seen the agreement it detailed between People Express and Vision Airlines, the firm that actually operated the service.

But by then, it was much too late.

Lost in the details

The Daily Press recently obtained the cache of documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, that state auditors sifted through to put together a report on the Peninsula Airport Commission, a review sparked by the newspaper's report about the commission paying off the loan to People Express.

The documents include emails, interview notes, invoices, meeting minutes and cellphone text messages. The information contained in those records allowed the Daily Press to put together an extensive timeline of the frantic weeks that led up to the launch of People Express' first flight out of Newport News.

On May 22, 2014 — the Thursday before Memorial Day — Bourey and Spirito met with David Burris, the Peninsula president of SunTrust Bank, to sound him out about lending $5 million to support People Express' operations.

An email that day from Burris to Bourey, Spirito and People Express CEO Jeff Erickson noted that they had promised the airport commission would guarantee the loan.

The documents contain no further communications from SunTrust Bank about a loan.

But Bourey also was working another angle.

On Friday, May 23, he sat down with Newport News City Councilman Bert Bateman, who is an executive at TowneBank. They talked about the money People Express needed and ways it might be raised.

"Bert," Bourey wrote in an email to Bateman that evening, "Thanks for spending all the time with us this afternoon. I was pretty surprised as you that they are not in better position with revenues to get in the air ... If it looks like they will not have a clear path to flying, we will cancel the Friday event" where McAuliffe was to announce the new service.

"It is better to have that problem than the incredible black eye of failing."

Bateman replied:

"Jim, we are not venture capitalists and the flow of funds that would serve as surety on any TB (TowneBank) credit is convoluted and unprecedented at best. Red flags on PEX accounts have flown (because) of garnishments."

Bateman's email does not describe how the money would flow. But he promised to discuss the idea of a loan with TowneBank Peninsula President Brian Skinner when the office reopened after that Memorial Day weekend.

That same Friday, Spirito sent a email with the portions of a state airport manual the two would later say showed that the $2 million a year the airport received from the state could be used to guarantee the loan.

A meeting at TowneBank

On Memorial Day, when Bourey wrote to Moulton, the People Express finance officer, he was preparing to persuade TowneBank to provide People Express the $5 million line of credit.

Moulton had just shared a spreadsheet that predicted People Express would turn enough of a profit to cover all interest payments on the credit line after eight weeks of operations.

But Bourey also wanted to see what People Express already owed, and what resources it had to cover those obligations.

In response, Moulton forwarded a balance sheet showing the airline was already having problems paying its bills.

Bourey sent an email to Florence Kingston, the city's development director, saying he still had questions after reviewing the balance sheet. Airport and city records do not include any written or email questions about the balance sheet sent to Moulton or anyone else at People Express.

On Tuesday, May 27, Spirito refined numbers that detailed payments the airport was likely to receive from the state aviation department and from the Regional Air Service Enhancement (RAISE) committee, a regional body funded by local tax dollars.

He also wrote a memo to the commission board saying People Express could generate some $5.7 million of revenue for the airport's operating and capital budgets.

He sent Bourey some suggested talking points for McAuliffe, including an estimate that the economic impact of the People Express service would total $210 million.

"So where does the 210 million come from?" Bourey replied. "I am just curious how that was determined."

Bateman, meanwhile, had arranged for Bourey, Spirito and People Express' Erickson to meet with TowneBank Peninsula President Skinner and other bank officials the next day, Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

At that meeting, they sketched out a deal for the $5 million loan, guaranteed by the commission and secured by a formal pledge that its bank accounts would be used to repay any money People Express owed if it did not make good on the debt.

Most of the money in those accounts would come from state payments to the airport, Bateman wrote in an email to the meeting's participants.

The deal needed more than the state money to make it work — the commission needed to pledge some $700,650 the RAISE committee was planning to provide to match a federal grant of $950,000 to subsidize air service to New York and Boston.

Everyone there agreed to the terms.

With a deal in principle in hand, Bourey's fears that the airport might have to cancel McAuliffe's announcement were eased.

It was, the governor said on the big day, a "truly incredible" moment.

"Folks, this is how we grow and diversify our economy," he said.

The service was set to start at the end of June.

But enthusiasm was somewhat dimmed because the plane People Express had promised to have on hand wasn't there. An Illinois court order barred its operator, Vision Airlines, from flying the 737 because a creditor had sued it for the $93,695 it still owed on a leased engine.

No airport or city records indicate that officials had checked on the plane or on Vision's ability to live up to its commitment. Its filings with the U.S. Department of Transportation showed its debts exceeded its assets by $29 million at the time. Spirito would later say that was no big deal.

The airport commission still hadn't voted on guaranteeing the loan.

No need to be specific

On June 3, the Tuesday after the governor's announcement, development director Kingston set to work to let the RAISE committee know about the airport's plans for its money. She drafted a resolution for the RAISE committee to vote on, to authorize releasing funds to the airport. The draft she mailed to Bourey clearly stated that the funds would be used as collateral security for a TowneBank loan to People Express until disbursed as a grant.

Bourey replied: "I am ok wit (sic) this but do not thin (sic) we need to be as specific on how the money will be used."

The motion the committee voted on didn't mention the loan. Kingston told the Daily Press that she was doing what she was told. As city manager, Bourey was her direct boss.

On June 5, the day the vote was taken, Spirito emailed Bourey, Kingston and her assistant Sam Workman a four-slide presentation he planned to give the committee. There is no mention of the loan, just that the total grant of $1.65 million would be used to offset the airline's expenses in the New York/Newark and Boston markets.

Spirito also emailed Leonard Sledge, Hampton's director of economic development, about the RAISE meeting. He said he would ask RAISE to support a local match of funds for the federal grant, again not mentioning the loan guarantee.

The RAISE committee approved the motion.

TowneBank, meanwhile, had not waited for the airport commission. Its Hampton Roads Executive Committee approved the People Express line of credit on June 4.

The committee did so despite seeing the financial projections People Express' Moulton had prepared showing it would not have enough money to pay interest on the loan.

But the report the bank committee reviewed also included extensive detail on the airport commission's finances, the money it expected to receive from the state and the RAISE committee, and noted that the bank could rely on the bank accounts the commission pledged for repayment of the loan.

The commission vote

On Monday, June 9, 2014, the airport commission met in closed session so Bourey and Spirito could present the People Express financing plan.

Commissioner Steve Mallon would later tell state auditors that things moved fast.

"Jim Bourey took the lead," auditors' interview notes quote him as saying. "Pushed by Jim Bourey w/ Ken being co-pilot ... All of the sudden. Loan guarantee, Urgency to approve."

Mallon asked if the commission had funds to cover the guarantee, the notes show, which then summarize his next comment as: "Jim Bourey — Can't afford not to."

Bourey has said all the commissioners, including former Hampton Mayor George Wallace, who was not at that meeting "certainly understood this was a loan guarantee. ..."

He has said the commission's then-attorney, Herbert V. Kelly Jr., told the commissioners that the guarantee and the use of state funds to back it were allowed.

Kelly drafted the motion to authorize the guarantee that the commission would vote on, in public, as required by law. Kelly was a member of TowneBank's Peninsula board of directors.

The motion did not mention a loan, a guarantee, or a pledge of bank accounts. It did not mention People Express. It simply empowered the commission's then-chairwoman, LaDonna Finch, to take whatever steps were necessary to provide for air service at the airport and for the airport's general business.

Kelly had refined the motion after Spirito, the Friday before, asked if it could drop any reference to action "replacing air service," the purpose of its People Express agreement.

The vote to approve the motion was 3-0. Bourey, Finch and commissioner Aubrey Fitzgerald voted yes. Mallon abstained. The auditors' interview notes report that Mallon said he would have voted against, but Kelly advised him to abstain. Commissioners Bateman and Wallace were absent.

Another million-dollar loan

Emails on June 10 and 11 from the bank officer assigned to the People Express loan reminded Spirito that he needed to start moving state funds into a special account to back the loan, and to confirm that the RAISE money would be deposited, too.

On June 12, the airport commission voted to waive rent and most airport fees otherwise due from People Express for its first year.

Four days passed.

On Monday, June 16, 2014, two days before People Express would close on the loan, W.M. Jordan Co. raised an issue about $1 million it had lent to the airline in 2013. Airport officials were asking W.M. Jordan to subordinate that loan, or take a backseat to TowneBank in getting its money back.

Jim Burnett, a controller for W.M. Jordan, wasn't having that. He emailed Spirito on the evening of June 16: "I am only asking for what's fair. PEX, The City, and the PAC have a lot to gain from seeing PEX succeed. As a lender, we have no gain and the best we can do is to hopefully not lose money. I am asking that as a lender similar to TowneBank, we be afforded the same guarantee protection as TowneBank from the PAC."

Later that night, after Burnett and Moulton discussed the airline's finances, People Express CEO Erickson wrote in an email to unidentified recipients that, "We have created an unnecessary monster. He has refused subordination."

Erickson seemed appalled when, nine minutes later, he wrote to Spirito, "And he now wants PAC to guarantee his loan!?!?!"

Spirito forwarded this conversation to Bourey. At 7:28 p.m., Bourey replied: "They are in a dream world. We have basically bailed them out of a total loss. We have an agreement with People Express to guarantee the loan. WM Jordan is not a party to this transaction."

About an hour later, Kelly emailed Bourey, Spirito and other lawyers in his law firm:

"... Although the three of us want this to happen there are limits to our generosity. This was a good risk until we learned Friday that they could not meet their representation that there were no liens or judgments. ..."

The next morning, at 8:28 a.m., Bourey told Spirito that he had talked to Kelly, and, "We are ok with the outstanding debts of PEOPLExpress. The WM Jordan issue is outstanding. I have a call into John Lawson to discuss."

Lawson is the CEO of W.M. Jordan.

Spirito replied, "Ok. Good. We can get this done."

About an hour later, Bourey emailed Spirito that "We are good to go."

One day to closing

That evening, Spirito told Kelly and lawyers for the airline and the bank that the closing on the loan "must be done tomorrow to meet deadlines."

Steve Meade, a lawyer representing TowneBank, said he would do his best, but he had another meeting scheduled that day. The bank's paperwork was fine, he said. The only adjustments that might need to be made were for the line-of-credit agreement between the airline and the airport commission.

Spirito pushed to have those issues resolved before noon; Meade said it was possible.

At 8:20 a.m. on Wednesday, June 18, Spirito emailed the lawyers, Erickson and Bourey to say that bag tag technology and paint for the second airplane were on hold until deposits are in. "Please let's close this afternoon," he said. "It's critical at this point."

The deal closed shortly before 1:38 p.m., according to an email from TowneBank loan officer Sue Ivy to Spirito.

On Monday, June 30, 2014, People Express launched its first two flights from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. Among the passengers was Ladonna Finch, celebrating her last day as chairwoman of the Peninsula Airport Commission.

On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, without a public announcement and stranding passengers in several cities, People Express canceled all of its flights. 

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.dailypress.com

Ageless Aviation takes seniors and vets for flights of their life






YAKIMA, WA - Lee Stuck is a decorated World War II veteran. At the age of 93, he's doing something he's never done before. He's flying in a 1944 Stearman plane that was used in World War II.

"I've been in a few small planes, but nothing of this era," Stuck said.

Stuck served a little more than two years as an assistant crew chief in the Air Force. Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation provides flights for seniors and veterans like Stuck.

"Before, people came to them and asked them for their opinion and what they thought, and they were very valued," said Mike Sommers, an Ageless Aviation pilot. "They are still valued, but a lot of people have forgotten them."

The foundation started six years ago. To date, they have given about 2,700 flights in their three Stearman planes, including ten flights today. Some of the flights can be emotional roller coasters.

"They'll alternate sometimes between laughing and just having a great time and tears in their eyes, thinking about what they don't have the opportunity to do anymore," said Stuck.

The smile on Stuck's face says it all.

"I told the pilot it was a million dollar experience as far as I'm concerned," Stuck said.

If he had the chance, he'd do it again.

"Anytime, they're not going to do it again probably, but I would."

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.nbcrightnow.com

North state air service takes another hit

Hope was high when PenAir airlines started serving Redding last year. People around here thought there might be hope for Chico too, which lost its commercial air service in 2014.

That elevated feeling was pretty much crushed when the Alaska-based airline said it would stop its Redding to Portland flights, and then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last week, according to the Redding Record Searchlight.

The article indicated PenAir hoped the bankruptcy filing would help it survive. The article indicated the Crescent City to Portland flight would continue, as well as its service in Boston and Denver.

While some could see that as a north state disappointment, there are others who think this gives Chico more power in that those Redding travelers might come down here for flights, should we get commercial air service back.

Asked about PenAir’s exit, Chico Airport Manager Sherry Miller noted, “A carrier going out of business really isn’t good for anyone. Less choices, less competition etc…

 “It’s not good for (Chico) in that PenAir has pulled out of the area completely. It could have been a good match route wise but now we don’t even have that option.”

Shucks.

I always appreciate talking to Miller, who updates me on airport goings-on. In case you’ve seen some different aircraft overhead, there are a couple of air tankers filling up on retardant that are working on coastal wildfires. One, she says, has jet-assisted take off, so it sounds high pitched. And if you’re counting those former Aero Union tankers waiting to be sold, there is one less. She said it’s been purchased and is down at Mather Airfield in the Sacramento area. 

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.chicoer.com

Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, N8262, Friends of Jenny LLC: Accident occurred August 12, 2017 near Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport (KBWG), Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville

http://registry.faa.gov/N8262

NTSB Identification: GAA17CA488
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 12, 2017 in Bowling Green, KY
Aircraft: CHARLES D WALKER WALKER CURTISS JN4D, registration: N8262

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Aircraft force landed on a golf course.

Date: 12-AUG-17
Time: 16:00:00Z
Regis#: N8262
Aircraft Make: CURTISS
Aircraft Model: JN4D
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: MINOR
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: SUBSTANTIAL
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: BOWLING GREEN
State: KENTUCKY




Dorian Walker patted the shredded fabric on the right wing of the 1917-vintage Curtiss JN-4 biplane known as Jenny, saying "My baby" before correcting himself to say: "Our baby. A lot of people have taken interest."

Walker, owner of the historic airplane that crash-landed Saturday at CrossWinds Golf Course a little more than a chip shot away from the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport, was understandably pensive Tuesday as he surveyed what's left of the plane he purchased in 2011 and spent 14 months restoring.

Jenny sat lifeless in the Co-Mar Aviation hangar at the airport, its wooden propeller a mangled mess and its battered wings still containing bits of evergreen branches from Saturday's fateful flight that ended with the plane clipping trees before crashing down on the golf course's fourth fairway.

"I've flown all my life, but I've never been involved in something like this," said Walker in between fielding calls from an insurance adjuster and a Federal Aviation Administration inspector. "We hope to be able to restore the plane."

Walker, 70, is also hoping to find some answers. The FAA completed its inspection of the airplane and will now communicate its findings to the National Transportation Safety Board, which will make the accident report.

"The FAA is the investigating entity," Walker explained. "They have all the information they need. They take their findings and send it to the NTSB. It can take up to six months for them to come up with a probable finding."

In the meantime, Walker is turning his attention to the airplane's future after initially being concerned solely about the condition of pilot Terry Richardson.

Richardson, a decorated pilot who has flown the JN-4 numerous times, was taking the plane up for a short flight Saturday morning but was barely airborne when he was forced to crash-land on the golf course.

"Obviously, he's heartsick," Walker said of Richardson. "He and I flew the last two air shows that Jenny was in.

"You always put safety of the public first (in a crash), then the pilot and finally the airplane. So two out of three is not bad. And that's due to his piloting skill. Now we want to find out what happened."

Walker, an experienced pilot himself, could only speculate about possible causes of the crash.

"The first thing I thought about was something coming loose in the cockpit and getting stuck in the pulley cables," he said. "But there's no sign of that. Wind can do strange things to this airplane. The forecast was good that day, but wind shear can cause airliners to crash. We checked the plane out and everything seemed fine. But what happened is not fine."

Walker, founder of Bowling Green's Peridot Pictures video production company and a veteran director and producer of movies, documentaries and television programs, uses one of his former TV shows as an analogy.

"If I were still directing 'Unsolved Mysteries,' this case would go to the top of the list," he said. "There's no obvious explanation."

But instead of looking at the crash through a camera lens, Walker is looking at it from the viewpoint of the owner of a historic aircraft he would like to see return to the skies.

It won't be easy.




Explaining that the FAA has strict guidelines and even requires specific types of wood for many of the parts, Walker said: "It took us over 5,000 hours to reconstruct it and quite a bit of money. A lot of investigating has to go on to determine what can be saved. We will need a new propeller, and we may need a new engine. All that stuff is expensive. Insurance will cover some but probably not all."

Before the accident, the Jenny was one of only six JN-4s still flying. As a plane renowned for training pilots during World War I, the JN-4 was much in demand during the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in that war.

Walker explained that the JN-4 also flew the first U.S. Air Mail in 1918. He was aiming to have Jenny ready for celebrations of the 100th anniversary of air mail, but now those plans are on hold.

Walker and fellow members of the Friends of Jenny non-profit group are heartened, though, by the response to the plane's distress.

"I'm getting calls and emails from all over the country," he said. "The plane has a lot of followers around the country. One of our members from Utah said he wants to come and see how he can help." 


http://www.bgdailynews.com




What started as a relaxing morning on the golf course turned into a day Brian Duvall won't soon forget.

"It was the scariest thing I've ever seen," said Duvall, who was playing in the Monie Beard Golf Classic at CrossWinds Golf Course on Saturday when a rare and historic Curtiss JN-4 single-engine biplane known as Jenny crash-landed about 11:15 a.m. on the No. 4 fairway. "I've never seen anything like it."

The plane, flown by veteran pilot Terry Richardson, took off from runway No. 3 at Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport, climbed to 100 feet or so, then began descending toward the golf course that abuts the airport. It clipped a tree on the edge of the fairway before crashing about 400 feet from airport property.

"We saw him coming in low and could see he was distressed," said Duvall, who was on hole No. 5.

Duvall and his playing partners hurried to the crash scene to find a plane with crumpled wings and extensive damage to its fabric. Duvall approached Richardson in the pilot's seat and found the man bleeding from a head wound.

"He (Richardson) told me to get him out," Duvall recalled. "By the time we got there, blood was gushing out. He said the plane might blow. Gas was pouring out. I took him about 30 feet away. Another guy (Drew Beard) came over and gave me a shirt to put over the wound so I could apply pressure to the wound."

Richardson was able to walk to the ambulance when it arrived to take him to The Medical Center. Med Center Health Executive Director for Marketing and Public Relations Barbara Taylor later said the pilot was listed in fair condition, meaning his vital signs are stable and indications are favorable he will recover.

Chuck Coppinger, a fellow pilot and a member of the Friends of Jenny nonprofit organization that restored the plane, said Richardson was slated to go home Saturday night.

The plane was transported to a hangar at the airport Saturday afternoon, and airport Manager Rob Barnett said the Federal Aviation Administration would begin its investigation Monday.

Coppinger said few pilots were as qualified as Richardson to fly the plane. A Franklin resident, Richardson is a retired U.S. Navy pilot. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Wright Brothers' Master Pilot Award in recognition of his 50 years of aeronautical experience as an aviator – the highest FAA award for career achievement in aviation.

As for the cause of the accident, Coppingter said: "It's all speculation at this point. I don't know if it was engine failure or flight controls."

Another eyewitness and one of Duvall's playing partners in the golf scramble, Jim Holland, said: "It sounded like the engine didn't have power. He was kinda leaning to the side. He came right over the top of us and clipped that tree. The plane spun around and then went down." 

The crash damaged a plane that had become a flying history lesson of sorts and an ambassador for Bowling Green. The Curtiss JN-4 was the first mass-produced World War I flight trainer and carried the first regularly scheduled air mail for the United States Postal Service. In fact, the Jenny restored by the Friends of Jenny organization in Bowling Green bears the same number (38262) as the first JN-4 to carry air mail in 1918.

Richardson and others have flown the plane to shows in Wisconsin, Florida, Alabama and other areas.

Another Friends of Jenny member who has flown the plane, Larry Bailey, described the JN-4 as "a challenging airplane" to fly under the best of conditions. He said Saturday's surface winds could have caused problems.

"I noticed the surface winds were a little strong," Bailey said. "I don't know if that had anything to do with it. The power plant could have had an issue."

Whatever the cause, Barnett believes the damage to the historic plane is tragic.

"There is substantial damage," he said. "It's a shame. It's very unfortunate."

Story and photo gallery  ➤ http://www.bgdailynews.com

































Bowling Green, KY -  A scary situation happened at Crosswinds Golf Course in Bowling Green after the pilot of a plane is forced to make an emergency landing.

The Jenny JN-4 plane took off from the Bowling Green Warren County Regional Airport at approximately 11 am Saturday morning.

Shortly after take-off, ground employees of the airport say they heard engine trouble… just moments later, the pilot made an emergency landing just 400 feet from the airport onto fairway of the 4th hole of Crosswinds Golf Course.

Officials say the pilot walked away from the scene with possible lacerations to the head and face… he was taken to the Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.

Airport manager Rob Barnett says the plane is owned by a nonprofit organization and operated by volunteers.

There’s no word yet on what caused the crash… the FAA is investigating.

Story and video ➤ http://www.wnky.com

Bell 407, N31VA, Virginia State Police: Fatal accident occurred August 12, 2017 in Albemarle County -and- Accident occurred May 11, 2010 near Virginia Highlands Airport (VJI), Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia

 The pilot of a Virginia State Police helicopter that crashed Saturday, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, is survived by his wife and two sons, authorities said. The helicopter had been monitoring the clashes in Charlottesville when it crashed in a wooded area outside the city.



 Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 on Sunday, leaves behind his wife, son and daughter. 




Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia

Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of State Police
http://registry.faa.gov/N31VA

Rotorcraft crashed into a wooded area during public use operation. The two (2) souls on board were fatally injured.


Date: 12-AUG-17

Time: 20:50:00Z
Regis#: N31VA
Aircraft Make: BELL
Aircraft Model: B407
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: DESTROYED
Activity: PUBLIC USE
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Aircraft Operator: VIRGINIA STATE POLICE
Flight Number: VATRP1
City: CHARLOTTESVILLE
State: VIRGINIA

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov.


Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Charlestown, West Virginia
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: ERA10TA261

14 CFR Public Aircraft
Accident occurred Tuesday, May 11, 2010 in Abingdon, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/23/2012
Aircraft: BELL 407, registration: N31VA
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.


The certified flight instructor (CFI) was providing aircraft orientation training for the commercially rated pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the public aircraft flight. About 7 minutes into the flight, while enroute to practice confined area operations at a field about 3 miles from the helicopter base, the crew heard an unusual noise from the engine compartment. About 250 feet above the targeted field, the crew heard a louder noise, and the engine surged twice before ceasing to develop power. The CFI then conducted an autorotation to the sloping terrain below. The helicopter sustained substantial damage, which included fuselage crushing and the partial loss of one vertical stabilizer. Data downloaded from the engine control unit revealed an overtemperature fault indication; the engine was then removed and shipped to the engine manufacturer's facility for a detailed examination. A circular metal deflector plate, which was normally affixed to the aft end of the combustion chamber liner, was found fragmented in the turbine section. The turbine blades and vanes exhibited significant damage, which resulted from the deflector plate's release into the gas path. Metallurgical analysis of the combustion chamber liner revealed that the required circumferential fillet weld between the liner and the deflector plate had not been performed; only the preliminary positioning welds attached the deflector plate to the liner, and those welds failed during normal engine operation. 


Maintenance records indicated that the liner had accumulated about 158 hours in service since its overhaul and reinstallation. The liner overhaul included replacement of the deflector plate; the replacement was accomplished by a repair facility that was not authorized to conduct that procedure and that also did not possess the applicable guidance. The investigation was unable to determine the specifics of why the repair facility replaced, inspected, and approved the deflector plate. Although 19 months had transpired between the improper repair and the liner's failure, the investigation did not locate any information that indicated that either the repair facility or the Federal Aviation Administration principal maintenance inspector for the repair facility was aware that maintenance personnel at the repair facility had accomplished a procedure that it was not authorized to conduct. The repair facility identified 19 other assemblies that had a known or suspected improper repair, recalled those assemblies, and no additional in-service failures occurred. The engine manufacturer subsequently modified its overhaul manual to clarify the relevant repair and replacement procedures.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:


The improper repair of an engine component by a repair facility, which resulted in a complete loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the repair facility to recognize that an improper repair had been accomplished, which allowed the component to be placed into service.


HISTORY OF FLIGHT 

On May 11, 2010, about 1335 eastern daylight time, a Bell 407 helicopter, N31VA, operated by the Virginia State Police, was substantially damaged during an emergency landing following an engine failure and autorotation near Virginia Highlands Airport (VJI), Abingdon, Virginia. The certificated flight instructor (CFI) and the commercial pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the public use instructional flight. 

According to the crew, who were both Virginia State Police (VSP) officers, they and the helicopter were based at VJI. The purpose of the flight was to provide aircraft orientation training for the pilot. The pilot conducted one takeoff and landing at VJI, and then proceeded to the northwest to practice confined area operations at a field about 3 miles from VJI. When the flight was enroute to the practice field, the crew heard a noise that they described as a "very low growl" coming from the engine compartment. As they approached the field at an altitude of about 250 feet above ground level (agl) and a speed of 80 knots, they heard a "very loud growl," and the engine "surged" twice. The "FADEC DEGRADE" caution light illuminated, and an aural "ENGINE OUT" alert sounded. The CFI informed the pilot that he was taking control of the helicopter, and then initiated a 180 degree right turn, and an autorotation to the field. At about 50 feet agl, the CFI flared the helicopter, and then landed it. The helicopter bounced one time and came to rest on a "slight slope" in the field, with the right skid on the uphill side. The crew shut down the helicopter and exited normally. The pilot reported that the flight duration was seven minutes.

Two days after the accident, the helicopter was recovered to a Bell Helicopter completion and maintenance facility. The engine, including the electronic control unit (ECU) and fuel control, was removed and shipped to the Rolls-Royce facility in Indianapolis, Indiana for detailed examination and testing. Since the helicopter was a public use aircraft, a week after the accident, the VSP formally requested that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "conduct a formal investigation" into the accident. 

PERSONNEL INFORMATION 

Pilot and FAA records indicated that the CFI held an airline transport pilot certificate, with several ratings, including rotorcraft-helicopter, and a flight instructor certificate with rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. The CFI's most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in July 2009, and his most recent flight review was completed in August 2008. He reported that he had 3,278 total hours of flight experience, which included 2,316 hours in helicopters, of which 1,100 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

Pilot and FAA records indicated that the pilot held a commercial certificate, with several ratings, including rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument helicopter. The pilot's most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in April 2010. He reported that he had accumulated approximately 4,328 total hours of flight experience, which included 4,007 hours in helicopters, of which 147 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION 

According to FAA records, the helicopter was manufactured in 2000, and was first registered to the Commonwealth of Virginia in January 2001. Examination of the maintenance records revealed that the records system utilized three separate hour-tracking categories, as well as an engine "cycles" value. The three hour-tracking categories were "Hobbs," "Aircraft TT (total time)," and "Engine TT." Examination of the records from October 2009 to the date of the accident indicated a constant difference between the aircraft and engine TT values; the aircraft TT value was 198.0 hours more than the engine TT value. In contrast, the Hobbs value did not maintain a constant difference from those values, but was about 43 hours more than the aircraft value.

The helicopter was equipped with a Rolls-Royce 250-C47B engine. According to the maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was completed in October 2009. The most recent 50 hour/3 month airframe inspection was completed on April 20, 2010, and the most recent 150 hour engine inspection was completed the following day. As of those two latter inspections, the aircraft TT was about 3,887 hours, the engine TT was about 3,689 hours, and the engine had accumulated 6,631 cycles. The helicopter and engine accumulated about 14.5 hours between those inspections and the accident. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION 

The VJI 1343 recorded weather observation included wind from 200 degrees at 10 knots, with gusts to 18 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 3,700 feet agl, broken cloud layers at 4,200 and 5,000 feet agl, temperature 21 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.20 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION 

Representatives from the FAA and Rolls-Royce arrived at the accident scene the day after the accident. They reported that both landing skids were splayed in the outboard direction, and that the right skid exhibited more deformation than the left skid. The upper 3 inches of the left vertical stabilizer was missing, and one main rotor blade had paint transfer marks consistent with stabilizer contact. The tail skid and tail rotor blades were intact. The forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret that was mounted on the underside of the fuselage below the left rear seat was pushed up, and penetrated the cabin floor. The "Night Sun" lamp that was mounted on the underside of the fuselage, below the left front seat, was damaged, but did not penetrate the cabin. The remainder of the airframe, main rotor and tail rotor were otherwise intact. Movement of cockpit controls confirmed continuity to all control surfaces.

The helicopter had approximately 790 pounds of fuel on board at the time of the event. All fuel, lubrication, and pneumatic lines were checked for damage, continuity and security; all were intact. The engine was found securely in position, with all attaching hardware in place and secure. A visual inspection of the engine exterior did not reveal any damage. 

Checks were then made of the N1 and N2 drive trains. Motoring of the engine to approximately 10 percent rpm resulted in smooth and continuous rotation from the starter generator to the compressor. Rotation of the main rotor head showed resultant smooth and continuous rotation to the No.4 power turbine wheel. No attempt to start the engine was made. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Engine Data Recorder

According to the Rolls-Royce representative, the ECU was equipped two separate non-volatile memory (NVM) units, known as the "maintenance terminal" (MT), and the "incident recorder" (IR). The MT recorded discrete events relevant for maintenance purposes, and the IR recorded time history data of engine parameters. The IR recording was designed to start whenever a "trigger" (parameter exceedance) was detected; the recording would capture data from 12 seconds prior to the trigger, and continue after the trigger.

Visual examination of the ECU found it to be securely in position, with its data connectors in place. The ECU NVM data were downloaded. Examination of the data revealed that two "engine surge" events were captured in the "Last Engine Run Fault" section of the recording. Also, the "Accumulated Faults" data revealed only one temperature exceedance. That value was a gas temperature exceedance of 1.25 seconds duration, with a maximum temperature of 1,712.9 degrees F. The exceedance did not have a time-of-occurrence associated with it, but it was the opinion of the Rolls-Royce representative that it most likely occurred during the engine anomaly/fault event.

The Rolls-Royce Maintenance Manual (MM, Sec 72-00-00 p 20) required the following:
During engine starts, gas temperatures between 1,700 and 1,830 degrees require an inspection of the turbine, and entries in the engine maintenance records (including temperature and duration)
During power transients, any gas temperatures above 1,661 degrees requires that the turbine be removed for "heavy [maintenance] or overhaul"

No previous engine overspeed or overtemp exceedance events were noted in the engine maintenance records.

Detailed Engine Examination

On June 10, 2010 an engine investigation was conducted at the Rolls-Royce facility. In attendance was an FAA inspector, and representatives of Rolls Royce, VSP, and Bell Helicopter. 

Visual examination of the compressor module exterior revealed no damage. When rotated manually, the compressor exhibited smooth operation, both before and after separation from the accessory gear box. Disassembly and inspection of the compressor front support, compressor rear support, impeller, and compressor shroud revealed no damage.

Prior to separation of the engine modules, manual rotation of both the N1 and N2 drive trains at the tachometer generator pads revealed smooth and continuous rotation of the N1 and N2 gear trains through the accessory gear box. Visual examination of the gearbox interior revealed that it contained clean oil, and no damage was noted.

The outer combustion case and both air discharge tubes were properly positioned, and no external damage was noted. Removal of the outer combustion case revealed a metal strip, approximately 2 inches long, lodged between the basket and the inner wall of the outer combustion case. A second, similar metal strip was observed bent around, and lodged in, one of the dilution holes of the combustion liner. Visual examination of the interior of the combustion liner revealed no unusual streaking, or other evidence of thermal damage. The support plate (the "-6" component in the manufacturer's Illustrated Parts Catalog (IPC), commonly referred to as the "deflector plate"), which was normally located at the aft end of the combustion liner, was absent.

Examination of the turbine module revealed heavy metallic spatter across the aft face of the No.1 nozzle shield, and a smearing of a yellow substance around the outer rim of that nozzle shield. A foreign strip of metal was found bent around a first stage nozzle vane saddle. The No.1 nozzle exhibited discoloration of the vane surfaces consistent with excessive thermal exposure. Several turbine vanes and the No.1 turbine wheel of the gas producer section exhibited foreign object impact damage. All the turbine blades were damaged, and four blades were missing the majority of their airfoil length. 

The No.2 turbine wheel exhibited metal spatter across the blade surfaces with foreign object impact damage to many blade leading edges. The No.2 turbine nozzle exhibited nicks across the leading edges of several vanes. The trailing edges of approximately 20 percent of the vanes exhibited thermal damage consistent with over-temperature. Metal spatter was noted across the vane surfaces. The Nos.3 and 4 turbine wheels all exhibited nicking across the blade leading edges, and light spatter across the blade surfaces.

The lower chip detector was clear of any metallic particles; the upper chip detector exhibited light metallic particles or slivers. All other engine components appeared normal and undamaged.

Combustion Liner History

The combustion section consisted of an outer combustion case and an inner combustion liner. The liner was supported at the forward end by the gas producer nozzle vane assembly, and at the aft end by the fuel nozzle, which was mounted in the aft end of the outer combustion case. 

Review of the helicopter and engine maintenance records indicated that the accident combustion liner (part number 23064570, serial number PHI-0020) was originally manufactured by Rolls-Royce. In 2008, the liner was sent to Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette LLC (CAL LLC) for inspection, with the possibility for overhaul if required. At that time, CAL LLC was a Rolls-Royce designated "authorized repair facility." 

According to the repair facility's work order "traveler" document, the liner was received and visually inspected. Subsequent detailed inspection revealed that the liner did not conform to the inspection criteria, and was therefore rejected, which denoted that it was no longer an airworthy component. The document indicated that cracks were present in the liner and the deflector plate, and that attempts to weld-repair those cracks were unsuccessful. The document also indicated that the liner was partially disassembled, a new deflector plate and associated spacers were installed, and the liner was reassembled. The liner disassembly and re-assembly process included cutting, machining, brazing and welding. In October 2009, when the engine had a TT of 3,544.9 hours, its combustion liner was removed, and the overhauled combustion liner was installed.

Combustion Liner Repair Details

As noted above, the combustion liner deflector plate, which normally surrounded the fuel nozzle boss, was found absent from its normal position. Failure analysis of the remaining liner revealed that the required circumferential fillet weld between the liner and the deflector plate was not performed during the repair at overhaul; only the plug (positioning) welds were present to affix the deflector plate to the liner. The combustion liner was approved for return to service on October 24, 2008. The TT on the combustion liner could not be determined, but at the time of its failure, it had accumulated 158.4 hours since overhaul and installation in the accident engine. The manufacturer's MM-specified "recommended time between overhaul" (TBO) for the combustion liner was "On Condition," which the MM explained as the component "May remain in service provided operation and condition are satisfactory." 

The engine manufacturer's maintenance documentation, included the Overhaul Manual (OHM), the Overhaul Procedures (OHP) manual, the Parts Repair Procedures Letters (PRPL) and the Illustrated Parts Catalog (IPC). The OHM provided top-level repair information, and specific guidance was contained in the OHP and PRPL. Examination of those documents revealed that while the engine manufacturer permitted the deflector plate to be replaced, there was no specific guidance for that procedure in the OHP or PRPL, and therefore the repair facility was not authorized to conduct that procedure. In addition, the repair facility did not possess the applicable guidance for replacement of the deflector plate. The investigation was unable to determine the specifics of how or why the repair facility replaced the deflector plate, and then inspected and approved that replacement. 

Although the combustion liner was approved for return to service by the repair facility about 19 months prior to its failure, the investigation did not locate any information that indicated that either the repair facility or the FAA principal maintenance inspector (PMI) for the repair facility was aware that the repair facility had accomplished a procedure that it was not authorized to conduct. In addition, there was no evidence to indicate that the FAA or the repair facility attempted to remove the subject combustion liner from service prior to its failure.

On December 21, 2010, after the repair facility was advised of the deflector plate failure mode due to the improper repair, the repair facility identified other assemblies which had a known or suspected improper repair, and recalled those assemblies from their customers. That action was accomplished by means of a repair-facility-issued "Urgent Stop Use and Product Recall Notice," which listed a total of 19 units. 

On March 24, 2011, the engine manufacture sent a "letter of finding" to the repair facility. The letter formally advised the facility that the deflector plate replacement was not an authorized procedure per OHP 72-40-14-01, and provided details regarding the deficiencies of the repair facility's procedures as executed. The letter instructed the facility not to conduct any such repairs in the future, to identify and recall any previously-affected combustion liners, and to notify the manufacturer once all suspected liners were successfully recalled. The FAA PMI was notified of those findings and actions. On April 18, 2011, the repair facility informed the engine manufacturer in writing that all 19 suspected combustion liners had been successfully recalled, and that no additional in-service failures had occurred.

In September 2011, the engine manufacturer modified section 72-40-00 of its OHM to more clearly state that replacement of the deflector plate by a repair station could only be accomplished by replacement of the next-higher assembly, the pre-ignition sub-assembly.

RICHMOND, Va. — Funeral arrangements have been finalized for Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who died in a helicopter crash in Albemarle County on Saturday.

Cullen, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Bates, of Quinton, Virginia, were in a VSP Bell 407 helicopter that crashed in a wooded area near a residence on Old Farm Road, according to the VSP. The helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Both died at the scene.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the state police are investigating the cause of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating the incident.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:


TROOPER-PILOT BERKE M.M. BATES


Visitation – Aug. 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Nelson Funeral Home, 4650 South Laburnum Avenue in Richmond;

Funeral – Aug. 18 at 11:00 a.m. at Saint Paul’s Baptist Church, 4247 Creighton Road in Richmond. The interment will be a private graveside service.

LIEUTENANT H. JAY CULLEN

Visitation – Aug. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bennett Funeral Home, 14301 Ashbrook Parkway in Chesterfield;

Funeral – Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. at Southside Church of the Nazarene, 6851 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield. The interment will be a private graveside service.

For those wishing to support the Cullen and/or Bates families financially, contributions are being accepted through the Virginia State Police Association Emergency Relief Fund. Monetary donations can be made by check (made payable to VSPA-ERF with “Jay Cullen” and/or “Berke Bates” noted in the memo) or through PayPal by visiting vspa.org/initiatives/emergency-relief-fund.

When donating through PayPal note that the donation is for "Lt. Cullen and/or Tpr. Bates" in the comment section. Checks can be mailed to the VSPA ERF at 6944 Forest Hill Avenue, Richmond, VA 23225. All donations to the VSPA-ERF are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the donation goes to the families. For any additional questions, please contact the VSPA at 804-320-6272.


Robby Noll was outside doing yard work Saturday when he said he looked up and saw the helicopter.


ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. -- A man who said he saw a Virginia State Police helicopter crash outside Charlottesville said it sounded like the helicopter experienced a mechanical problem before it fell to the ground killing the two men inside.

Robby Noll was outside doing yard work Saturday when he said he looked up and saw the helicopter.

"It was very apparent that the pilot was trying to gain control of the craft," Noll said. "It appeared to honestly invert to turn upside down."

Noll said he watched helplessly as the Bell 407 helicopter dropped vertically tail down.

"It lost some parts, [they] seemed to fly off, and then it came down relatively quickly," he said. "Frankly I was a little shaken."

The Virginia State Police helicopter was flying over the Charlottesville-area assisting with public safety at the Charlottesville protests.

The troopers who were killed in the crash were identified as Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, from Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates from New Kent. Trooper Bates would have celebrated his 41st birthday on Sunday.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team. Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years," Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said. "This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. Our hearts go out to their wives and children, and we stand by to support them during this difficult time. These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken."

President Donald Trump also offered his condolences in a tweet to the "families and fellow officers of the Virginia state police who died today."

Sources familiar with the operation said state police were filming the Charlottesville protests from the helicopter.

The helicopter crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Virginia State Police indicated foul play was not suspected in the crash.

Interstate processional honors troopers killed in Charlottesville helicopter crash

An emotional scene played out along Interstate 64 Saturday night as the bodies of two Virginia State Police troopers who died in a helicopter crash in Charlottesville were transported home to Richmond.

Law enforcement, firefighters and other observers gathered on overpasses along the interstate to honor the troopers.

As the processional neared, state troopers temporarily blocked the interstate's on ramps, as is procedure to keep traffic back from the official escort.

Lt. Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He first joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999.

Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons.

Trooper-Pilot Bates graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. He had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July.

Bates is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.


http://wtvr.com





Virginia State Police lost the commander of its 33-year-old aviation unit in the helicopter crash in Albemarle County on Saturday after violent protests in Charlottesville.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian was the pilot of the Bell 407 helicopter that crashed at 4:51 p.m. on Saturday near Old Farm Road and was engulfed in flames. Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, of Quinton, who previously had served on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s protection unit, died at the scene.

The helicopter was one of two State Police choppers that had been circling over Charlottesville as violence broke out before the scheduled white nationalist rally and after police canceled the event as an unlawful assembly.

"They were simply assisting the ground resources by forwarding them the aerial optics,” said State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller, who said fights were breaking out between the rally participants and counterprotesters in a wide radius around the site of the protest.

“We were able to identify hot spots and deploy resources,” Geller said.

Cullen had become commander of the Aviation Unit in February after first joining it in 1999. Bates had transferred to the unit in July from the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

State police established the Aviation Unit in 1984 to conduct search and rescue, law enforcement and medical evacuation missions. The unit operates from bases in Chesterfield County, Lynchburg and Abingdon. A fourth base in Manassas closed in 2009. State Police also operates its Med-Flight and Medvac aviation operations from the bases in Chesterfield and Abingdon.

The unit operates four Bell 407 helicopters, two American Eurocopter EC145 helicopters and three Cessna fixed-wing aircraft. Geller said the unit employs three full-time mechanics and exceeds the Federal Aviation Administration’s minimum requirements for maintenance.

Cullen and Bates had routinely flown McAuliffe and administration officials on state business, but Fairfax County police transported the governor to Charlottesville on Saturday for an afternoon news conference because the state police helicopters weren’t available, Geller confirmed.

Fairfax police said in a news release on Saturday that its helicopter flew McAuliffe to Charlottesville from Northern Virginia on Saturday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our (state police) family as well as the families of both troopers who died while serving and protecting the community," Fairfax police said in a statement.

McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy, took the loss personally because of the time they spent with Cullen and Bates, who had been part of the governor’s executive protection unit for three years.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team," the McAuliffes said in a statement.

"This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. Our hearts go out to their wives and children, and we stand by to support them during this difficult time. These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken."


Article and comments  ➤  http://www.richmond.com





Virginia State Police stated, "formally established Jan. 1, 1984, the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit’s primary mission is to provide aircraft for search, rescue, law enforcement and medical evacuation missions through its three Aviation Bases located in Chesterfield County, Lynchburg and Abingdon.

The unit is staffed by Trooper-Pilots, all of whom are sworn members of the Department, are qualified “Police Pilots,” and have private pilots’ licenses. 

The Trooper-Pilots are trained in-house on VSP aircraft, which include four Bell 407 helicopters, two American Eurocopter EC145 helicopters, and three Cessna fixed-wing aircraft. 

The unit also employs three full-time mechanics for its fleet and exceeds minimum FAA maintenance requirements. 

In 2015, the Aviation Unit totaled 2,784 flight hours and assisted with 26 criminal arrests, 36 missing persons located and three escapee apprehensions. The unit fielded 3,008 flight requests in 2015."




For Trooper Berke Bates, who grew up in Nokesville, joining the Virginia State Police aviation unit was a “dream come true,” his older brother said Sunday morning.

“He always wanted to be an aviator, he had taken private pilot lessons and become a fixed-wing pilot,” Craig Bates said. “Less than a month ago he was accepted into aviation. I talked to him the day he graduated and he was so excited.”

Shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, a state police helicopter assisting officers on the ground with the riotous scene in Charlottesville crashed in a wooded area not far from downtown. Bates, along with pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, were both killed.

Bates would have turned 41 today. He leaves behind his wife, 11-year-old twins -- a son and daughter -- his parents and his big brother.

“Berke was doing what he always wanted to do, he wanted to help people, that’s what led him to become a state trooper in first place,” Craig Bates said.

The Bates brothers grew up off Aden Road in Nokesville. Their father Robert worked with Naval Systems Command, which brought the family to Northern Virginia when Berke was 2 years old. He graduated from Brentsville District High School in 1994, then followed in his older brother’s footsteps to the University of Tennessee, where both played hockey.

Bates began his law-enforcement career as a Florida Highway Patrolman, but he was a Virginian through and through, and wanted to come home, his brother said.

He went through his second round of law-enforcement training at the Virginia State Police Academy, graduating with the 107th Basic Session in August 2004.

For the past three years, he served on the Executive Protection Unit for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who considered him a close friend.

“These heroes were part of our family and we are simply heartbroken,” McAuliffe said Saturday evening.

Bates joined the aviation unit as a trooper-pilot last month and was flying with a fellow police veteran Saturday. Cullen had been a state trooper since 1994 and joined the aviation unit in 1999.

In a small-world aside, Craig Bates – who now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee along with his parents – learned that Cullen’s father also lives in the Knoxville area.

“The only I thing tell people, and I spent the night with my folks last night to help take care of them, keep our families in your thoughts and prayers, keep your family close. You never know what can happen,” Craig Bates said.

The family had planned to travel up from Tennessee to celebrate Berke Bates’ birthday. Instead they will be returning to Virginia for his funeral.

“He was the best younger brother,” Craig Bates said. “My parents and myself, my wife and kids, his wife and kids, we’re all proud of what he accomplished, and had left to accomplish. We just want to honor him and his memory.”

http://www.fauquier.com




The pilot of a Virginia State Police helicopter and a fellow trooper died when the aircraft, which had been monitoring Saturday’s clashes in Charlottesville, crashed in a wooded area outside the city.

The pilot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48 years old, is survived by his wife and two sons, authorities said. Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 on Sunday, leaves behind his wife, son and daughter.

The helicopter went down shortly before 5 p.m. ET Saturday. State and federal authorities are investigating. The State Police said there is no indication of foul play.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team,” Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy said in a statement. “Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years.”

“These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken,” the McAuliffes said.

“We lost 2 great friends and patriots today,” Mr. McAuliffe also said in a Twitter post. “Berke and Jay will be greatly missed. TY for your service to VA.”

Other state political figures also weighed in. “Simply heartbroken about the deaths” in Charlottesville and Albemarle, Democratic State Sen. Creigh Deeds said in a Twitter post.

Lt.  Cullen had been with the aviation unit since 1999. Trooper-Pilot Bates transferred to the unit in July.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, the superintendent of the State Police.


Original article can be found here ➤  https://www.wsj.com



RICHMOND – Virginia State Police are investigating a helicopter crash in Albemarle County.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 12), a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a residence on Old Farm Road. 

The Bell 407 helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville.

The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., died at the scene.

No one on the ground was injured.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation at this time by state police, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board. There is no indication of foul play being a factor in the crash.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent.

“Lieutenant Cullen was a highly-respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the Commonwealth.”

Lieutenant Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He first joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999. Lieutenant Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons.

Trooper-Pilot Bates would have turned 41 years old Sunday, Aug. 13. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. He had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July. Trooper-Pilot Bates is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.






CHARLOTTESVILLE — A Virginia State Police helicopter helping law enforcement officers monitor the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville crashed in Albemarle County on Saturday, killing the two people on board.

The pilot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, flying a Bell 407 helicopter, died at the scene, according to state police.

The cause of the crash, which was in a wooded area near a residence on Old Farm Road, is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, but there is no indication of foul play, state police said Saturday night.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Lieutenant Cullen was a highly respected professional aviator and trooper-pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the commonwealth.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe released a statement Saturday night saying, “These heroes were part of our family, and we are simply heartbroken.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team,” the statement said. “Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years.”

The two victims were the only people on board the helicopter and there were no injuries to anyone on the ground, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Police were notified of the crash at 4:54 p.m.

“Albemarle County police and fire responded first,” said Geller, standing a few hundred yards from the crash site. “They located the wreckage of a helicopter in the woods near a residence off Old Farm Road, at the very end of the roadway. It was fully engulfed. And at this time we do have two confirmed fatalities. State law in Virginia says that the Virginia State Police has to investigate all aircraft crashes so that’s why we responded to the scene.”

Geller said the aircraft was not the state police helicopter seen circling above Saturday’s white nationalist rally in downtown Charlottesville, a gathering at which a car was driven into a group of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

President Donald Trump expressed his sympathies to the state police on Twitter:

“Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces.”

Story and photo gallery: http://www.richmond.com



ALBEMARLE COUNTY - Meta Chisholm was in her kitchen making dinner when she looked out her window onto Old Farm Road and saw that the street had turned blue. 

Dozens of police cars were parked outside of her house, the last on a neighborhood road. Chisholm didn't know what was going on. She didn't hear the helicopter crash in a wooded area up the road from her. 

Police are investigating a double-fatal helicopter crash west of Charlottesville following today's protests downtown.

Officials say the deaths of the two Virginia State Troopers in the crash have been linked to the violent white nationalist rally earlier in the day, according to the Associated Press. 

The crash occurred shortly before 5 p.m., and the pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, both died at the scene, according to police.

The Bell 407 helicopter "was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville" when it went down in a wooded area in Albemarle County, police said in a press release. No one on the ground was injured.

Virginia State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the cause of the crash, but police said "there is no indication of foul play being a factor in the crash."

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Lieutenant Cullen was a highly-respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the Commonwealth.”

Cullen was a 1994 graduate of Virginia State Police Academy, first joining the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999. He's survived by his wife and two sons.

Bates, who was about to celebrate his 41st birthday Sunday, was a 2004 Virginia State Police Academy graduate and had just transferred to the aviation unit as a trooper-pilot in July. He's survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter and seemed to say that the crash was a Virginia State Police helicopter and it was two officers killed. 

He said: "Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You're all among the best this nation produces." 

The scene was blocked off from neighbors and media and Chisholm was in her front yard watching police activity. 

"I just thought what on Earth is going on," Chisholm said, adding that helicopters fly over her neighborhood all the time because of the the University of Virginia Medical Center just a few miles down the road. 

The site is an affluent neighborhood near Birdwood Golf Course in Albemarle County. Photos on social media purport to show the burning wreckage.

"We heard a lot of helicopters, a lot of police response," said neighbor Evan Sweat.

The site of the accident was close to the Charlottesville line. 

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Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates