Pilot Accused of Using City Copters to Give Lessons : Investigations: The district attorney is looking into a complaint filed by a lawyer on behalf of news crew flier Bob Tur.


Prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that a Los Angeles Fire Department pilot who has been decorated for heroism has given private flying lessons using city helicopters, fire officials said Thursday.

“An investigation is being conducted by the district attorney’s office about our helicopter use,” Assistant Fire Chief Robert Ramirez said.

The pilot under investigation, Patrick G. Quinn, allegedly provided a friend with at least 26 hours of training on two helicopters, according to an attorney who filed a complaint with city prosecutors.

The Bell helicopters, based in Van Nuys, are used for fighting fires and for emergency airlifts.


Quinn, a winner of the department’s medal of valor for heroism, has a spotless record, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and was described as a “great pilot” by Ramirez.

He has been a city firefighter since 1962.

Lawyer Matthew Fairshter said he filed the complaint against Quinn on behalf of a client.

He said he has discussed the allegations with Deputy Dist. Atty. Roger Gunson, head investigator of the department’s special investigations unit, and was assured that the allegations were being investigated.

Fire Department policy prohibits the use of fire equipment for anything other than official department business, unless specifically authorized, officials said.

Ramirez said the Fire Department is cooperating in the investigation, which began in December.

District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said she could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was under way.

Attempts to reach Quinn on Thursday at the city’s air operations unit at Van Nuys Airport were unsuccessful. Quinn’s superior there said he had no comment.

Quinn is certified as a helicopter instructor and has “no accidents, incidents or enforcement actions” listed in FAA records, FAA spokesman Bob Hopper said.

The investigation began when Fairshter and his client, Bob Tur, a controversial television news pilot who has had a long-running feud with Quinn, filed the complaint.

The bad blood between Quinn and Tur dates back to an incident in 1988, when Quinn alleged that Tur came so close to a department helicopter carrying a wounded police officer that Quinn had to change course to avoid a collision--an allegation Tur denies.

A complaint filed by Quinn led the National Transportation Safety Board in 1991 to revoke Tur’s pilot license.

Tur has appealed.

In a separate case, Tur and Fairshter filed a suit in federal court, charging that Quinn, the Fire Department and the city of Los Angeles have violated Tur’s civil rights by conspiring to ruin his reputation within the broadcast journalism profession.

In his complaint against Quinn, Tur alleged that his own investigation showed that the helicopter trainee said Quinn was his instructor, and provided a statement to that effect purportedly signed by Quinn.

Quinn received the Fire Department’s medal of valor in 1979 for helping firefighters in a rescue on cliffs near San Pedro, fire officials said.