Hughes A269A May Not Have Been Airworthy
NTSB investigators now think a
tail-rotor problem forced a Hughes A269A to crash in Franklin
County (NC), killing a deputy last month. But worse, county
officials say it's possible the aircraft never should have been
flying in the first place.
"There are substantial questions with regard to the
airworthiness of the aircraft," said County Attorney Darnell
Batton, as reported by WRAL-TV.
As ANN earlier reported, the Hughes A269A went
down in the woods near Louisburg (NC) May 21st during a drug
interdiction mission, just a month after one of the two men on
board donated its services to the sheriff. Deputy Ted Duke Horton,
53, was killed in the crash. Deputy Ben Barrick, whose organization
Netstar Air Rescue, Inc., struck a verbal agreement with Sheriff
Jerry Jones for use of the aircraft, was injured.
Jones said there was no written agreement on the use of the
Netstar helo. Imagine, then, his chagrin, when Batton presented the
county commission with a copy of... guess what... the written
"In the course of this investigation, the existence of an
agreement between Netstar and sheriff of Franklin County was
discovered which had been signed by Sheriff Jones and Ben T.
Barrick, as president," county attorney Darnell Batton was quoted
by WRAL as saying.
Another thing: Barrick (right), who
was at the controls, is not a certified rotor pilot. While in a
public use aircraft, he doesn't have to be. Still, the FAA was
concerned enough to issue a statement saying 99-percent of all
public use pilots are indeed certificated.
In his report to county commissioners, Batton relayed criticism
from Southeastern Helicopters, where the A269A was stored. The
report quotes Southeastern President Patrick Cronin, who said, "It
may be flyable, but it is not airworthy... all work was done for
display purposes only."
"I advised the sheriff of the need for him to seek independent
legal counsel," Batton said. In other words, get a lawyer.
Commissioner Harry Foy said he's troubled by inconsistencies in
the stories he's heard from both Sheriff Jones and Deputy Barrick
-- especially by a promise Barrick supposedly made to the sheriff
that the Hughes aircraft was in excellent condition.
"If that's true -- that report -- it's been a lot of cases of
bad judgement, bad calls and hopefully, in the future, it will be
done different," Foy said.
Barrick was unavailable for comment. He is still on leave with a
back injury sustained in the accident. WRAL reports he may never
return to the sheriff's department.