VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than a month after a Tulare County Sheriff's Office plane crashed, killing a pilot and deputy on board, the department is determined to get back in the air as soon as possible. The sheriff has said that's what pilot James Chavez and Deputy Scott Ballantyne would have wanted.
Aviation Unit head Dave Williams agrees, and believes it will be good for department morale. Williams has been with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office for decades, holding a variety of positions. But his post-retirement role as head of the department's aviation unit has been most enjoyable. "I gotta say that being able to be up in the air and provide that type of assist, is probably one of the best jobs in law enforcement," Williams said.
There's inherent risk in flying, and the entire law enforcement community was reminded of it when Sheriff One crashed into a hillside after responding to a call near Springville. Deputy Scott Ballantyne and pilot James Chavez died, and have since been remembered as good men who kept the Tulare County community safe. "They both loved what they were doing, they absolutely thought that being in the aviation unit was the greatest assignment they could ever have," Williams said.
Sheriff One responded to any and all public safety calls, including deadly accident scenes, dangerous drag races and even fires in the hills. Chavez and Ballantyne communicated with and protected deputies on the ground. They busted large scale marijuana grows and helped take down gang members. It's all why Williams and the Sheriff believe it's so important to get the aviation program up and running again-even as they await results on the cause of the crash. "If there's any area where we can improve safety, we will do it," Williams said.
Williams says they're working on a claim with the insurance company to replace Sheriff One. But another plane, identical to the one used in Kings County, should arrive within a month. A camera system will need to be installed, and another crew will need to be trained.
The sheriff's office was recently given the go-ahead to purchase their first drone. That will also be part of the aviation unit, and should also be up and running within a couple of months.
Story and video: http://abc30.com
COUNTY OF TULARE SHERIFFS OFFICE: http://registry.faa.gov/N911TS
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
Pilot James Chavez and Tulare County sheriff's Deputy Scott Ballantyne.
Josiah James Chavez looks at the casket holding his father, Pilot James Chavez, at Grangeville Cemetery in Armona.