December 11, 2019
Former Virginia State Police Helicopter Mechanic Pleads Guilty To Falsifying a Maintenance Log
On December 11, 2019, Michael Smith, a former helicopter mechanic with the Virginia State Police (VSP) Aviation Unit, pleaded guilty to falsifying a helicopter maintenance log. The sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2020.
According to court documents, on April 10, 2019, Smith was scheduled to inspect an air conditioning belt on VSP helicopter N39VA. The inspection is necessary to ensure the belt is properly tensioned; otherwise, there is a risk the belt will come off, damage the aircraft, and possibly result in a crash. Mechanics must use a belt tension tool to ensure the air conditioning belt is tensioned to between 14.5 and 15.5 pounds. However, Smith did not take any of the Aviation Unit’s belt tension tools to inspect the helicopter.
Smith completed and signed a maintenance log entry stating he performed “all work I/A/W [in accordance with the] Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 maintenance manual.” Such work would have required a belt tension tool. His signature permitted the aircraft to “return to service,” meaning he cleared it for flight although he had not conducted a proper inspection. Smith later admitted that he reached under a cowling and pushed on the belt with his hand.
DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with VSP.