Scrap-Heap Helicopters Resold?
A Kansas company has been charged with fixing a helicopter (that had crashed and been submerged in the ocean) with parts from another helicopter (that had also crashed) and then selling the chopper to a Niagara Falls sightseeing company, which used it to carry passengers. A federal grand jury indicted Robert A. Schlotzhauer, 66, owner of Lee's Summit-based Falcon Helicopter Inc. (not to be confused with a Colorado company with a similar name) for, among other things, not following FAA regs and using non-certificated mechanics to assemble wrecked helicopters into saleable, but not necessarily airworthy, condition. Schlotzhauer "unduly placed at risk prospective pilots and passengers of two helicopters as a result of the fraud scheme," reads a written statement from U.S. Attorney Todd Graves quoted in the Kansas City Star. The government alleges that Falcon Helicopter bought an MD-369E that had crashed in the Pacific off Australia and stayed submerged for several hours. It then bought a second MD-369E that had crashed in England and scavenged parts from it to get the other one flying. A New York company bought the "reconditioned" chopper for $450,000 and started flying tourists over the falls, which it apparently did without incident before it was pulled from service. The other helicopter, a Eurocopter 120B, was bought as a wreck from an insurance company for $110,000 and repaired by Falcon. The company is alleged to have tried to sell it for $650,000 but an agent for a company looking into the deal alerted the FAA with concerns about the airworthiness of the aircraft.