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Flight school involved in helicopter crash at John Wayne Airport also operated copter in fatal Newport crash, under different name

Flight school involved in helicopter crash at John Wayne Airport also operated copter in fatal Newport crash, under different name
A small helicopter lies on its side after crashing Monday at John Wayne Airport. Two people aboard suffered minor injuries. (Orange County Fire Authority)

A flight school that owned and operated a small helicopter that crashed Monday at John Wayne Airport, injuring the two people onboard, is the company that under a different name operated a helicopter that crashed into a Newport Beach home in January, killing three people and injuring two others.

In Monday’s incident, a flight instructor and a student suffered minor injuries when the two-seat Guimbal Cabri G2 they were flying crashed and tipped onto its side, officials said.

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The chopper was owned and operated by One Above Aviation, formerly named Revolution Aviation, according to John Wayne Airport spokeswoman Deanne Thompson.

The school did not respond to a request for comment.

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Fire officials responded to the scene just after 3:30 p.m. Monday. The two injured people, who were not identified, were treated and declined further medical attention, according to fire officials.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. Thompson said no mayday call came from the chopper before it went down.

Thompson said she had no information about the copter’s planned route.

Firefighters assist as a crane lifts a helicopter from a runway after it crashed Monday at John Wayne Airport.
Firefighters assist as a crane lifts a helicopter from a runway after it crashed Monday at John Wayne Airport. (Orange County Fire Authority)

The helicopter crashed along Runway 20L at Taxiway J, according to John Wayne Airport officials. The runway, intended for small aircraft, was shut down for about an hour and a half as it was cleaned of oil spilled during the crash, officials said.

Airport officials said there was no disruption to commercial flights.

The crash occurred about seven months after a four-seat Robinson R44 helicopter operated by Revolution Aviation slammed into a house in Newport Beach's Bayview Terrace community on Jan. 30. Three people aboard the copter died, including Newport resident Joseph Anthony Tena, 60, who had an ownership stake in Revolution Aviation.

Revolution Aviation was the focus of a Federal Aviation Administration investigation last year into allegations of improper maintenance, including on the copter that crashed in Newport, documents show.

Another copter Revolution Aviation operated crashed at Long Beach Airport in September 2017, shortly after the FAA's Long Beach flight standards district office inspected five of the helicopters the company operated, as well as all its aircraft operations and maintenance records, according to an FAA memo in August last year.

In the Long Beach incident, a Robinson R22 Beta helicopter began to shift to the left and right at an altitude of about 40 feet and suddenly and rapidly descended before hitting the ground and rolling onto its side, according to a preliminary NTSB report. The student pilot suffered serious injuries, the report said.

Reviews of the copters that eventually went down in Long Beach and Newport Beach found maintenance issues that did not meet FAA or maintenance manual standards, according to the memo.

Jeffrey Rafferty, who at the time was the principal maintenance inspector with the FAA in Long Beach, wrote in the memo that “Revolution Aviation has addressed all of the discrepancies brought to their attention by the [aviation safety inspectors] during the investigation and put new processes in place to reduce the likeliness of reoccurrence.”

The investigation of the John Wayne Airport crash is ongoing, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said Tuesday, but it wasn’t clear whether the FAA is currently investigating One Above Aviation.

KTLA contributed to this report.

4:35 p.m.: This article was updated throughout.

11 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

This article was originally published at 7:20 a.m.

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