By Steve Neavling
A whistleblower claims CBP downplayed alarming details about a near-fatal helicopter crash during an exercise training in 2021 and tried to conceal violations at a flight school that led to the incident, the New York Post reports.
According to the whistleblower, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations division posed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety” when it permitted most of its AS350 light Helicopter fleet to operate without crash-resistant fuel tanks and allowed pilots to fly with minimal certifications.
In May 2021, a CBP pilot in training and an instructor crashed a helicopter while conducting an aerial maneuver near a flight training center near Oklahoma City. The pair were hospitalized with minor injuries.
The flight school was intended to enable CBP to give pilots with minimal qualifications a chance to “pad their logbooks,” a source familiar with the investigation said. But the trainee who crashed the helicopter was the school’s first student.
“This leads to minimally skilled aviators being selected for very difficult pilot assignments,” the source said, adding that another handful of mishaps have also occurred due to poor safety precautions.
According to an internal aircraft mishap report, the pilot in training was the “primary causal factor” and used an invalid waiver about accumulated flight hours.
But officials tried to cover up details of the report, according to the whistleblower.