Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Flight Design CTLS, N911TS, County of Tulare Sheriffs Office: Fatal accident occurred February 10, 2016 in Tulare County, California


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.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fresno FSDO-17

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

James Chavez, 45, left, and Tulare County sheriff's Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, were killed Wednesday in a plane crash. 

Tulare County, Calif.--   As the investigation into the Tulare County Sheriff's Office plane crash continues, funeral arrangements have been made, for the victims in the crash.

Pilot James Chavez's funeral is reportedly set one day later, on February 20, at 10 A.M., at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Hanford.

Deputy Scott Ballantyne's funeral is reportedly set for February 22, at 10 A.M., at the Visalia First Assembly of God.

On Friday morning, crews removed the wreckage, and the wreckage is being sent to Arizona, for further inspection.

A friend on Chavez is remembering the victim.

"I have flown with him many times he is a very good pilot." said Peter Ledford, who is also a commercial airline pilot in his own right.

Ledford said he has flown the plane that crashed. Ledford said the plane has a parachute, and it's surreal knowing an experienced pilot like Chavez went down.

"We are all shocked, and we are all confused," said Ledford. "We do not know what to think."

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he had pride in the aviation team.

"It was a good use of money, and good use of resources to provide good aerial support at minimal costs." said Boudreaux. Sheriff Boudreaux said there is a plan to grow the aviation program, and that another plane wash puchased, before the crash. That plane, according to Boudreaux, is now being built.

According to Boudreaux, Chavez was slated to oversee the Aviation Department.

"The plan was to hire another pilot with another observer, and James was going to over see the program." said Boudreaux.

According to Chavez's family, a major airline is paying for flights, for people flying in for the funeral.

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The wreckage from the plane crash near Springville was moved from the crash site Friday morning.

A recovery specialist was at the site at seven Friday morning collecting the remains of Sheriff One, the plane that crashed Wednesday night into the side of the hill near Springville.

Sheriff One was assisting deputies on the ground with a chase prior to the crash and was heading back to regular patrol duties when the crash happened.

Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, who had been with the Tulare County Sheriff's Department for 27 years and Pilot James Chavez who was a former Black Hawk pilot died in the crash. 

Tulare County Sheriff's officials tell 23ABC the wreckage will be transported to Pheonix, Arizona where it will be placed in a storage facility.

NTSB has not commented on the investigation or any preliminary causes for the crash. 

This crash is just the latest in a string of crashes during the last two months. 

In early December a SkyLife helicopter crashed shortly after leaving from the Porterville Airport. The pilot, paramedic, nurse and patient on board were all killed. 

Officials say there was no distress call and so far no cause of the crash has been released. 

Less than two weeks later, a single-engine plane made a mayday call just after four thirty in the afternoon. 

The plane crashed in southwest Bakersfield, killing the family of five on board. 

The FAA has still not released results from the crash. 

Last night in Bakersfield, pilots and others who work directly with the airport listened closely to instructors discussing the importance of communication between air traffic control and pilots. 

One person in the audience asked what happens when a pilots radar is lost. 

"We try to reach you. If we don't reach you we try going through pilots, can you reach them on the frequency? We try to go to other airports around the area and then if we can't find you, we call LA center and we send out search and rescue."

All three crashes remain under investigation. 

NTSB has not commented on Wednesday's crash and it is unclear how long it will be before a preliminary report is released. 

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It was a tough day for Tulare County Sheriff's Office and its deputies.

As the investigation continues into Wednesday's plane crash, the sheriff says it is comforting knowing the victims died doing what they loved. 

"It is heart wrenching." Says Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

The flags in Tulare County waving at half-staff are a reminder of the dangerous jobs those in law enforcement endure everyday. 

"I tear up just a tad, it becomes very emotional, I have two young kids." He says. 

"They meshed and worked well together and became a well oiled machine, they are going to be missed for sure." He adds.

Deputy Scott Ballantyne and the sheriff's office first full-time aviation pilot James Chavez died in a plane crash Wednesday afternoon. 

"Everyone knows everyone else, we knew who the pilot was we knew the patrol officer." Says Boudreaux.

Chavez leaves behind his wife and two young children, Ballantyne leaves behind his mother and sister. The two were the Tulare Sheriff's Office aviation team, the sheriff says both had years of experience and the news of the accident shocked everyone. 

"Obviously we will move forward and we are a strong department and a strong community, and we will be stronger as we get on the other side of this, but right now it is thinking about the families." He adds.

The news also took a toll on the community. 

"It is horrible, it is horrible." Says Lessa Cordova. 

Lessa Cordova grew up next door to Ballantyne on Memory Street in Visalia. She says she will always remember the man who looked over her neighborhood.

"He would tell us that was his job and I am just here to take care of everyone else, he had a lot of pride for what he did." She says.

Like Cordova, the sheriff says it will be difficult moving on, but he knows these two died doing what they loved. 

"They would not want to be doing anything else." Says Boudreaux.

Boudreaux also says they are working with the families on funeral arrangements and no dates have been set yet.

Porterville, California - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement regarding the deaths of Tulare County Sheriff's Department Deputy Scott Ballantyne and pilot James Chavez:

“Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and the friends and family members of Deputy Ballantyne and pilot Chavez during this difficult time. We are grateful for these men, who made the ultimate sacrifice doing what they did everyday – serving and protecting their community.”

Deputy Ballantyne, 52, of Visalia, and pilot Chavez, 45, of Hanford, were killed yesterday in the crash of a Tulare County Sheriff's Department aircraft along Highway 190 near Lake Success in Porterville. They were assisting a mission to apprehend a suspect prior to the crash.

Deputy Ballantyne was a 27-year veteran of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. He is survived by his mother and sister.

Pilot Chavez was hired by the Tulare County Sheriff's Department in 2014 and previously served in the California National Guard and Navy Reserve. He is survived by a wife and two children, ages eight and four.

In honor of Deputy Ballantyne and pilot Chavez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Two Tulare County Sheriff’s Department employees, one a deputy and the other a pilot, died Wednesday afternoon when the Sheriff’s Department’s airplane crashed into the side of a mountain just east of Eagle Feather Trading Post above Success Lake.

Undersheriff Robin Skiles confirmed late Wednesday that Sheriff 1, the small fixed-wing aircraft owned by the department, had crashed killing both men aboard.

Skiles said killed were pilot James Chavez, 45, and Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, who was the observer in the plane. Skiles said the men were the first two hired to man the aircraft.

“It’s a very sad day for the Sheriff’s Department,” Skiles said. Both he and Sheriff Mike Boudreaux went to the crash site.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier in the day confirmed a single-engine flight aircraft crashed.

Eyewitness Karen Ramirez of Springville said she saw the plane crash and burst into flames.

“I was coming up (Highway 190) and I saw him by Success Valley,” she said as she waited at the Trading Post to speak with investigators.

She said the plane was flying very close to the hills and was right along the hillside when she saw the wing come off and the plane slam into the ground, exploding on impact.

“It was a clip and boom. It was that fast,” she said.

Omero Bravo, a community service officer with the Tule River Tribal Police, said he heard the explosion.

“It was a like a zip, plow, boom,” he said. “There was a big old fireball and a bunch of black smoke.”

Ramirez, still shaken by what she had seen, said, “It’s so upsetting. Terrible, terrible, terrible. I couldn’t believe it.”

She said she called 9-1-1 at 4:14 p.m. She said she did not hear anything before the crash to indicate the plane was having engine trouble.

Skiles said they learned of the crash almost immediately and within a few minutes learned they no longer had contact with the plane or could not locate it on GPS.

Smoke from the crash site billowed for more than 45 minutes. A Tulare County fire engine could be seen moving down the hill to the crash site and people could be seen at the site. Fire and sheriff’s department personnel kept arriving at the scene for up to an hour after the crash, and a command post was set up at the Trading Post for the department’s search and rescue team.

The department purchased the small Flight Design CTLE aircraft in 2012. It is able to fly at low speeds and hardly makes any noise. Ramirez described the plane as small, almost looking like an ultralight aircraft.

The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 190 at the Trading Post and it appeared the roadway was going to be closed for several hours. It was not known where it was closed farther up the hill, but the plane went down just east of the Trading Post about 1,000 feet off the highway. Scores of people on their way up the hill were turned around and if they needed to get to River Island Country Club or higher, were told to take the Frazier Valley Road out of Strathmore.

The Sheriff’s Department has already purchased a second aircraft, but has not taken delivery of it.

The plane only carries two people — a pilot and an observer — and is equipped with an infrared camera and heat sensor.

The plane is also equipped with a ballistic parachute, but Ramirez said she did not see a parachute deploy.


TULARE COUNTY, Calif.-- Late into the night Wednesday investigators were still on scene near the town of Springville, trying to figure out what caused a plane crash that killed two employees of the Tulare County Sheriff's Office.

The crash happened near Highway 190 and Success Valley Drive in Tulare County around 4 p.m.

On board the plane called "Sheriff One" were deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, and 45-year-old pilot James Chavez.

Karen Ramirez was driving home when she saw the sheriff's plane flying close to the hillside. 

"And I thought, 'oh he's going to hit.' And sure enough he hit and it just exploded," Ramirez says.

Ramirez pulled over and called 911 after seeing the plane go down. 

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said the plane was in the Springville area helping deputies with an arrest. 

"They were assisting officers in tracking down a suspect wanted for brandeshing a firearm, as I understand they arrested that suspect, the detail was over and the plane was leaving the area."

There is no indication yet as to what caused the crash.

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Sheriff One - the 2 seater plane that crashed. The plane had 3000 hours of flight time with no prior issues.

Two people were killed when a single-engine plane crashed Wednesday near Springville in Tulare County.

Witnesses told authorities they saw the aircraft on fire.

Witness Shawn Winter, a resident of Springville, was driving down the hill to pick up his daughter from school when he saw something on the hillside.

“I saw the black color of smoke. There was a big old ball of flame,” he said.

It’s not clear whether the plane was ablaze in the air, or crashed or landed and began burning, emergency medical services officials say.

The crash occurred about 4:15 p.m. near Eagle Feather Trading Post and Highway 190.

The CHP reports the Highway 190 closure from just west of Pleasant Oak Drive on the east and Eagle Feather Trading Post on the west. The closure is expected to last indefinitely and could extend to Success Valley Drive, the CHP reported.

Lester Lawton, who lives on on Success Valley Drive, said the plane crashed just off the highway on the hill behind Eagle Feather Trading Post.

“I couldn’t even see an airplane. I could see a black spot on the ground on the hill,” he said. “It didn’t look like there was remains left.”

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The Fresno Bee is reporting that two people have been killed in a plane crash in Tulare County on Wednesday.

FAA officials said at around 4:15 p.m., a single-engine plane was crushed under unknown circumstances around 10 miles east of Porterville.

The plane was caught fire after crashing, according to the FAA.

The FAA and NTSB is investigating this crash.

According to CHP's Central Division, SR190 is closed in both sides from East of Success Valley Dr. and Pleasant Oak Dr. No word yet on when it will reopen.

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TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) -- The FAA and NTSB are investigating a plane crash in Tulare County. 

According to authorities, the plane burst into flames after hitting a mountain near Highway 190 and Pleasant Oak.

The FAA said the plane was a single-engine Flight Design. It went down under unknown circumstances around 4:15 p.m.

According to CHP a section of Highway 190 is closed east of Success Valley Drive and Pleasant Oak Drive due to the crash.

The condition of anyone who may have been on board is unknown.

Tulare County Sheriff's Office will be holding a press conference at 8:00 p.m.

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Flight Design, Composite Technology Law Enforcement (CTLE): Supervisors could approve sheriff’s plane purchase

(Photo: Tulare County Sheriff’s Department)

More than three years after buying a new sheriff’s plane, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors could approve a more than $208,000 contract to buy a second one.

The county Sheriff’s Department is asking the county Board of Supervisors to waive the bid and allow a contract to purchase the single-engine Composite Technology Law Enforcement aircraft.

That’s because the manufacturer, Airtime Aviation, is the only company manufacturing a small plane with the built-in camera and searchlight systems sheriff’s officials want.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Department already has a CTLE-model aircraft, delivered in late 2011, and having people fly the same sort of aircraft tends to improve safety, according to as sheriff’s report prepared for the superiors.

This also will help with maintenance, as local maintenance people already are familiar with the aircraft, the report continues.

The cost of the new plane will be $208,530.

That plane has features that include cameras which can remain focused on a single object while the plane circles, a built-in video screen that allows the pilot and a passenger to see what the camera sees and a spotlight with a mile-long range.

It also runs on on automobile fuel, which is less costly than aviation fuel.

The new plane will cost about $50,000 more than the last one, Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Williams said in a written statement.

“The new aircraft will have the fuel injected engine, providing more power and more efficient fuel use as well as less maintenance. It also has more safety features such as wingtip-mounted landing and anti-collision lights and a navigation radio to allow use of the aircraft in times of reduced viability,” he wrote.

It also will include “photo” windows that can be opened so somebody in the plane can stick a camera lens out to take high-resolution photos of objects and people on the ground without the distortion of shooting photos behind plexiglass windows, Williams continued.

In a presentation to the board last year, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said his department’s current plane — with a call sign of “Sheriff One” — is being flown most days of the week and has been instrumental in search-and-rescue operations, as well as in monitoring criminal activity from the air.

Adding a second plane would enhance those capabilities, he said.

The department is planning to hire a civilian pilot to fly the second plane and handle light maintenance on it.

As part of the purchase agreement, the county would have to put up 50 percent of the new plane’s costs down in advance, and an additional 30 percent when the plane is shipped from Germany — where it will be assembled — with the remainder due once the Sheriff’s Department accepts delivery.

Estimates are that the single-engine plane will be delivered in late February, 2016, and the cost — which includes $17,204 in sales tax for a out-of-state purchase — will come from the Sheriff’s Department’s current budget.

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The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department owns this light sport aircraft, featured on the cover of the California State Sheriffs’ Association magazine in 2012. The Modesto Police Department is interested in buying one of its own as its latest crime-fighting tool. The aircraft has a high-definition camera with night-vision capabilities and a spotlight. Tulare County Sheriff’s Department 

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department owns this light sport aircraft. The Modesto Police Department is interested in buying one of its own as its latest crime-fighting tool. The aircraft has a high-definition camera with night-vision capabilities and a spotlight. Tulare County Sheriff’s Department 

The Modesto Police Department wants its own high-tech crime fighter in the sky.

Police Chief Galen Carroll is expected on Tuesday to ask the City Council to approve spending as much as $660,000 for what is called a light sport aircraft that seats two and is equipped with a spotlight and a high-definition camera with long-range scope and night vision that records what it sees.

Carroll said the aircraft would be flown by volunteer pilots and police officers who are pilots. He envisions the airplane being in the sky five to six hours a day, five days a week, patrolling the city, conducting traffic enforcement, and helping with crimes in progress and special operations.

“I see this as being a force multiplier,” Carroll said. The department’s staffing is at its lowest level in many years, with 219 officers allocated in the current budget year.

The proposed purchase comes after voters last week rejected a sales tax increase the city put on the ballot to pay primarily for more public safety after city officials said the city did not have the money to adequately protect Modesto. Measure G was expected to bring in $14 million annually to the city’s roughly $115 million general fund, which primarily pays for police and fire services.

“I know naysayers will say we are wasting money,” Carroll said. “But we are trying to protect the city with the limited resources we have. This is another way of being smart with the taxpayers’ money. We have been researching this for close to a year. … We did not live or die on Measure G. We still have a department to run and a city to protect.”

Modesto already has air support through the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Adam Christianson said his department’s helicopter is in the air 25 to 30 hours a week, primarily Fridays through Sundays. He said the helicopter covers the county but spends the majority of its time in Modesto. He said his department does not charge Modesto.

The Sheriff’s Department and Police Department talked about expanding the helicopter’s coverage, but Modesto would have to pay for that. Carroll said those costs would be too high. Christianson said it costs $650 an hour to operate his department’s helicopter. Based on that, it would cost the Police Department $845,000 a year for 25 hours of coverage each week. A city report states it will cost about $75,000 a year to operate the aircraft.

Still, Christianson said it appeared Modesto was trying to provide a service his department already provides. “It does seem duplicative to me,” the sheriff said, though Carroll disagreed. “We want a regular air patrol that’s not provided now,” he said. “If we had that service, we would not be looking to duplicate a free service we already have.”

Carroll said his department is not competing with the Sheriff’s Department and said there will be times when his officers need the Sheriff’s Department helicopter. “I’m looking at this more as a patrol car that happens to fly,” he said.

The Police Department wants to purchase a Flight Design CTLEi aircraft from Airtime Aviation in Tulsa, Okla. The city did not seek bids because, according to a city report, Airtime is the only U.S. dealership that sells this type of aircraft equipped with the camera and computer system. Flight Design is based in Germany.

Carroll said the airplane flies at 1,000 feet (the Sheriff’s Department helicopter flies at 500 to 1,000 feet), can circle as slowly as a helicopter and is very quiet.

The report states that the city would pay for the aircraft and its high-tech gear with $194,000 in state asset forfeiture funds; $166,00 from its traffic safety fund; $100,000 in the Supplemental Law Enforcement Services Funds it receives from the state; and $200,000 from the general fund.

The city report states the sheriff’s departments in Kings and Tulare counties have purchased Flight Design CTLEi airplanes. As part of their due diligence, Modesto police met with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.

“Our aviation unit has been a great success, and we feel that the light sport aircraft is a safe and cost-effective platform for law enforcement aviation,” Tulare sheriff’s Lt. Rob Schimpf said in an email. “With the cost being a fraction of that associated with larger aircraft, such as helicopters, we are able to operate our plane in a proactive patrol capacity.”

Schimpf’s department recently purchased a second plane.

Carroll also met with Modesto’s Airport Advisory Committee, the members of which are pilots and/or from the aviation industry, for feedback. Councilman Bill Zoslocki, who serves on the committee and is a longtime pilot, said committee members liked what they heard.

The City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.

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