On August 12, 2017, at about 1649 EDT, a Bell 407 helicopter, N31VA, crashed and was destroyed in an accident in Charlottesville, VA. The airline transport-rated pilot and the private pilot observer, both Virginia State Troopers, were fatally injured.

Virginia State Police Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)

After reviewing the preliminary report released just several weeks later by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSP), experienced Bell 407 helicopter pilots agreed that the NTSB got it so wrong and independently published comments on how wrong the NTSB was. [Read Comments]

“The only reason that a helicopter stops flying from a nice straight-and-level altitude and course is if something goes wrong mechanically,” said Robert Hadow, a 20-year certified flight instructor based out of NJ who has 5,000 hours of fixed-wing pilot experience.

In 2019, Lt. Cullen and Trooper Bates’ widows filed suit against the manufacturer, Bell Helicopter Textron. 

The plaintiffs’ experts, some of the most qualified accident reconstructionists in the world, have since issued scathing reports showing how the NTSB performed a sloppy investigation and ignored obvious and critical evidence. These reports are linked below.

Accident Reconstructionists Reports:

Based on these reports, the NTSB:

  • ignored eyewitness statements,
  • ignored the significance of the severed tail rotor drive shaft,
  • ignored the metallurgical evidence that the pedal limiter was in the engaged position when it should have been disengaged,
  • ignored the fact that the emergency pedal limiter disengagement lever could not be pulled due to left pedal pressure being applied by the pilot,
  • ignored that the pilot was a Certified Flight Instructor who taught vortex ring state, 
  • never did a flight test which would have shown that the Model 407 is almost immune from vortex ring state and recovers in 100 feet of altitude loss, 
  • ignored the fact that the tail rotor, as well as the main rotors, struck the tail boom,
  • ignored that the helicopter was originally certified without a pedal limiter and keeps crashing even with it installed

They also ignored the hundreds of service difficulty reports that showed flaws in the rotor blades and ignored the fact that the rotor blades on the accident helicopter were replaced repeatedly.

The NTSB ignored the fact that Bell Helicopter was responsible for recertifying all Virginia State Police Pilots and did not demonstrate vortex ring state for years before the accident, and then the NTSB never interviewed any of the pilot’s helicopter students to see how frequently he taught and demonstrated vortex ring state. 

It also ignored the fact that on the morning of the day of the crash, Trooper Bates commented on the helicopter’s anomalous behavior, which the pilot thought to be vortex ring state when it was a rotor system out of track.

No flight tests, student witness interviews, no reconstruction that wasn’t by Bell, no realistic metallurgical analysis, and no tests of exemplar parts; in short shoddy, incomplete investigation not in accordance with the NTSB’s procedures.

~ Arthur Alan Wolk 




The National Transportation Safety Board gets to investigate all fatal airplane crashes. So, when a Virginia State Police helicopter went down in Charlottesville while tending to the demonstrations there, it jumped right in to investigate.

Whom did it invite to help? Bell, the maker of the helicopter, the Virginia State Police, Rolls Royce, the engine make and another component manufacturer. No one from the families of the two dead pilots were allowed to participate, and the NTSB and the Virginia State Police retained the wreckage for years not permitting anyone for the families to examine it.

In the NTSB Factual Report, the Board attached a video taken from miles away that shows the crash as a little moving dot. That video is attached.

But in truth there was another video, taken by someone who used her cell phone and was much closer. That video is attached.

Some still photos were taken by another bystander before the crash dynamics fully developed and they too were distant.

Well in my preparation for the trial of this case to start July 17th, I enlarged the video taken by the cell phone and it too is attached. What is plainly visible is that instead of this accident being from a Vortex Ring State, it was nothing of the kind. The helicopter was toppling end over end from a severed tail rotor drive shaft due to its spinning from a tail rotor pedal limiter that malfunctioned.

The enlarged video side by side with a vortex ring state video shows without any doubt that the NTSB aided by all its manufacturer friends got it all wrong.

Instead of gathering and considering all the evidence the NTSB once again helped to hide the real cause of the accident which is why more accidents will be caused for the same reason as this one just like others that have occurred in the past.

Shame on them for not doing their job! Aviation safety depends on it!

Please see the video below.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 4th, 2023

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See The Side by Side Video Below

Witness Video

Vulchard Video



The sad crash of a Citation V private jet is widely concluded by the media as a hypoxia event. That means loss of cabin pressure that resulted in loss of consciousness of the pilot.

First, loss of cabin pressure is a trained for event in all jets and includes the recognition of a pressurization warning, a quick donning oxygen mask readily available to the pilot and a rapid descent even though passengers will also have oxygen available.

For some reason, this pilot was rendered unconscious or unable to operate this aircraft at 34,000 feet even though he would have had a minute of useful consciousness in the event of loss of pressurization.

That just doesn’t make sense. It takes only a couple of seconds to put on the oxygen mask.

So long as the oxygen bottle was full and the mask functional this accident doesn’t happen due to hypoxia.

So, what else is a possible scenario? The pilot could have become incapacitated for reasons other than hypoxia in which event the autopilot would have flown the airplane along the flight planned route and then if nothing was done at or before the destination turned the aircraft back on its route if that’s how the autopilot is programmed until it ran out of fuel.

As the aircraft descended, the pilot would have regained consciousness quickly as the air became more dense. It usually takes at least 18,000 feet above sea level before consciousness is regained but descent while on autopilot even with no power is fairly benign.

What is unusual about this accident is the report that the final descent was 20,000 feet per minute. No intact airplane descends that fast in one piece which leads me to believe that something or someone overstressed the airplane during its descent especially with both engines dead from no fuel.

What could have occurred is both engines quit from fuel starvation, the autopilot tried to maintain level flight time and time again but could not and at some point, the autopilot disconnected, the airplane suffered an aerodynamic stall fell off on one wing and descended rapidly and the 20,000 feet per minute is an interpretation based upon initial descent rate. It is also possible as well that as the aircraft descended more and more rapidly, it broke apart which would account for the rapid descent as it was no longer intact. That would be similar to another Citation accident in Utah which due to an icing encounter, aerodynamically stalled, and broke apart at about 16,000 feet during the rapid descent in the stall.

Some new jets, like the HondaJet and the Cirrus Jet have a button. If the pilot is incapacitated, a passenger can push the button, the airplane announces its emergency, picks a suitable airport and lands by itself. This is the latest technology that does not exist in the Citation V or most other aircraft.

This is a sad day for the families of those who lost their lives. May their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

June 6, 2023

Arthur Alan Wolk

January 22, 2023

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Air Traffic Control Communications With The Pilot



A Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza departed JFK Airport in New York on a rainy night returning home to Cleveland where their families awaited their return.

The pilot, Boruch Taub and his passenger Binyamin Chafetz took off on a routine flight when all of a sudden, the aircraft lost its climb rate and on-board diagnostics revealed that power in at least one cylinder was lost and oil pressure was decreasing.

Air Traffic Control afforded magnificent assistance to this pilot trying to give him radar vectors and reassurance to the Westchester New York Airport nearby but the workload and the loss of engine power was just too much to make the Instrument landing System to Runway 16  at the airport.

The pilot was cool, calm and followed directions in this most highly stressful environment but sadly the aircraft crashed into trees near the airport and both occupants were killed.

The engine in this model aircraft has failed and failed again in service. In fact, in one popular model, the primary source of accidents is the failed engine of similar make and model as this one.

I owned a similar aircraft many years ago and once I became aware of and the victim of its litany of engine problems never owned one again.

Here is the problem with reciprocating aircraft engines. They are old designs. They fail catastrophically too often. Failed cylinders are epidemic, this engine likely had a rod put through the cylinder wall or crankcase causing loss of oil pressure and the loss of power in the entire engine. There is no current alternative but anyone who flies a reciprocating engine powered aircraft is risking a catastrophe every takeoff. But the industry has been slick by misrepresenting the frequency of failures, near failures and potential failures so pilots think it will never happen to them. It does and it will.

I attach the air traffic control communications which is instructive. First it teaches us that ATC can be of invaluable assistance in an emergency. It teaches us that some pilots make us proud to be in that community because of their professionalism, even in fear of death. You can read more in the article in The Stamford Advocate.

Be prepared to cry, the knowledge that no matter how hard these men tried to save each other, it was not enough will break your heart.

May the memories of Boruch Taub and Benyamin Chafetz be a blessing to their families.

Arthur Alan Wolk

January 22, 2023

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Air Traffic Control Communications With The Pilot



The tragic accident that took the lives of so many skilled pilots and crew members at the airshow in Dallas was totally preventable and the video is disturbing because of the clarity it brings to the cause.

YOU NEVER GO BELLY UP TO THE LEADER  As a former airshow pilot myself that admonition was drilled into my head by some of the best airshow and military trained pilots led by John Ellis who strictly enforced that and other airshow rules so there were no accidents. The CAT Flight which flew formation with multiple aircraft types of which I was a member as CAT 5 never had an accident even though 6 different aircraft joined up several times during the shows.

The formation training of the P-63 fighter pilot is unknown to me at this hour but the video clearly shows that his aircraft was belly up to the B-17 with which it appears he was attempting to join.

The reason for the rule is you lose sight of your leader and thus cannot judge distance, location speed or anything else. The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see whom you are supposed to be in formation with and that kind of join up is not permitted.

I am not blaming anyone and to the greatest extent possible airshows, the pilots and the aircraft that fly in them are safe. Airshows are one of the largest spectator events in America and it is rare that a tragedy like this occurs.

What can we learn? Training, training, training, discipline, discipline and more training.

Formation flying is not easy but to do it safely you must do it frequently or practice extensively before doing it in an airshow setting. The other rule about airshow safety is to take your time, do nothing you haven’t practiced before and never violate the airshow briefing and do only what is briefed. That way expectations from all pilots are the same and no deviations are expected.

Be careful what these “putative” ex Government experts are saying because they have never flown airshows or a vintage military aircraft for that matter.

For the most part, the aircraft are well maintained, expertly flown and care is taken to make sure that our national heritage of military aviation is displayed safely.

May the memories of those lost be a blessing to their families.

Watch the video below.

Arthur Alan Wolk


November 13, 2022

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Watch the Video



Two pilots are dead in the fiery crash of a Beech E-90 King Air. The aircraft was equipped with four bladed propellers. While giving a quieter ride, these four-bladed propellers are like barn doors in the event of engine failure.

The investigation is just beginning but there is just no reason for an aircraft like this to crash absent a loss of power on one side.

The original aircraft was equipped with 3 bladed propellers and VMCA, minimum control airspeed with the critical engine wind-milling was computed with the propeller not feathered. When equipped with four-bladed propellers, the VMCA goes through the roof, some 30 knots higher and landing speeds are below VMCA. Absent immediate feathering of the propeller on the affected engine, the airplane will slow down and stall. On takeoff the airplane will roll towards the inoperative engine until upside down.

I have no doubt these pilots were skilled and experienced but taken by surprise recovery from an engine failure is no easy task.

Typical reasons for engine loss of power are PY air leak, bleed valve failure or less likely a catastrophic failure of either the power section or gas generator. In some modes of failure there is no annunciation of that failure to the pilots.

The Wolk Law Firm has handled a dozen King Air crashes due to loss of power.

May their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

October 18, 2

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Witnesses describe the takeoff as a sudden pitch up, the airplane stalled and then crashed to the ground killing young flight instructor Viktoria Ljungman and injuring her student.

This has happened time after time in single engine Cessna’s when either the pilot’s or front passenger seat slides suddenly rearward while the pilot is holding onto the flight controls.

The grasping reflex causes the person in the pilot’s seat to hang on for dear life as the nose of the airplane pitches up too steeply to recover before stalling.

The surprise makes it impossible for even a flight instructor to wrest the controls away from the student  in time to save themselves.

The Wolk Law Firm obtained the largest aviation verdict of all time against Cessna for just such an accident. We are litigating another such crash that occurred in West Virginia under similar circumstances. In that accident the flight instructor’s seat slipped rearward on takeoff and the student was seriously injured though the flight instructor perished.

The Wolk Law Firm provided Cessna with a fix for this problem back in 1984 to no avail and again in the 1990’s again to no avail. There are still thousands of Cessna single engine airplanes out there with legacy seats that run the risk of similar accidents. The problem is the steel pins used to restrain the seats ride on aluminum rails which rapidly become worn such that the seat can slip. It happens on takeoff because the seat bends and ratchets out of the seat attachment hole as it is a flimsy design.

So long as Cessna makes no necessary changes these accidents will continue to happen and young pilots and student pilots will be killed and injured needlessly.

May the memory of  Viktoria Ljungman be a blessing to her family and hopefully her student will fully recover from his injuries.

Arthur Alan Wolk

October 10, 2022

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Old airplanes by definition have been around for a long time. There is something charming about flying in a vintage airplane put to use in romantic settings.

There’s a problem though. Old airplanes break a lot! No matter how much maintenance, how many modifications, upgrades and replaced parts there have been old airplanes just fail more frequently than new ones do and new ones fail a lot.

The problem with old airplanes is that seals get dry, gaskets rot, rubber parts harden and crack, composite parts wear out and even metal gets fatigue from expansion and contraction due to temperature changes and pressure changes and simply from moving and working the metal into brittleness.

Often, modifications are made through STC’s, a process that allows changes to an airplane with much less scrutiny than the original certification process which is bad enough, often allowing the manufacturers themselves, through the honor system, to essentially certify their own aircraft.

The Cessna Citation 501 has been around since the 1970’s and pressurization problems were reported in this aircraft.

Oxygen masks should have been sufficient for the crew to have landed without incident but for some reason the pilot chose to fly in a circuitous route before crashing into the sea. Oxygen deprivation is serious business and the outcomes are usually not good. Pressurization in light jets is accomplished by taking air off the engines and sending it into the front of the cabin and controlling its exit through outflow valves in the rear. The failure of either the entry controls or exit controls means pressurization failure which can mean loss of useful consciousness in as little as 20 seconds. Quick donning of the oxygen masks for the crew and a sufficient supply of oxygen for everyone is critical.


The De Havilland Otter is the workhorse airplane for odd places. It carries a lot, like 9 people or more and loads of cargo. In fact, it has so many STC’s its hard to count the many ways that it has been modified to carry more revenue producing people and cargo. Its engine was a turbine so the aircraft’s

old reciprocating engine was replaced with a much newer turboprop which would allow it to carry even more people and freight. The airplane however was sixty years old or more. Lots of them have been modified with floats or skis so they can be landed on water, ice and snow.  They have been used safely for decades. But they also crash a  lot because of the harsh environments in which they are used.

The Wolk Law Firm represents the families of a tragic fatal accident in Homer Alaska where the float of a De Havilland Beaver ( a smaller version of the Otter) became detached during takeoff causing the airplane to cartwheel and sink. The float was almost new, the attaching wires were almost new but because of poor and inadequate design the old airplane crashed. As an Airplane Transport Pilot Single and Multi-Engine Sea, I can say that taking off and landing on water can be challenging especially when things go wrong. While most think water is soft, it has little compressibility and can be as hard as concrete so a walk-away from a seaplane crash is no guarantee. Moreover, seaplanes operate in harsh and typically salty environments which wreaks havoc on metal parts. Salt can corrode metal spars and other aluminum parts so they are understrength. One multi-engine seaplane crashed in Florida killing all aboard because of corrosion of its main wing spar and a wing fell off.

The NTSB recovered much of the wreckage of the Otter and did find a failed stabilizer trim part that can explain the loss of control. The horizontal stabilizer is used to provide pitch stability and to trim pitch forces by moving its leading edge up or down. Disconnection can result in loss of pitch control which has happened before in other aircraft including an Alaska Airlines MD-80 that crashed into the Pacific years ago.

Old airplanes are difficult to maintain and fail catastrophically. The airlines learned this and renew their fleets more frequently now.

There is no coincidence that both were very old and old airplanes just like people don’t live forever.

There is no doubt that inadequate maintenance will have contributed to these accidents and perhaps defective design or manufacture. No airplane accident has one cause.

To the families of those who did not survive, may their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

September 5, 2022

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A Cirrus SR22 piloted by an experienced and well-respected pilot was on approach to Wings Field, Blue Bell Pennsylvania when it suddenly lost power requiring an emergency landing on a golf course.

Both occupants survived though injured. This crash is important because the pilot survived. He will be able to explain his power loss which prevented him from achieving enough power to even maintain level flight. Plenty of fuel, no expense spared for maintenance but yet another two occupants were nearly killed when the powerplant failed.

There have been more than 100 losses of power in this model Cirrus. Many have been killed or injured and while the aircraft has a ballistic recovery system, a parachute that can be used to lower the aircraft to the ground safely, many pilots either cannot or are reluctant to pull that handle because it works only about 80% of the time and destroys the airplane.

The solution for Cirrus is to do away with this unreliable powerplant and develop with partners or buy an off-the-shelf turboprop powerplant which has immense reliability compared to the turbo-normalized piston powerplant it used in this model. Later models used an even more unreliable turbo-charged engine. A turboprop engine is a jet engine attached to a propeller and does not suffer the unreliability issues that piston engines do.

That switch would increase the cost of the aircraft which is now expensive at a million dollars each but each accident costs Cirrus millions to defend and compensate so the cost benefit should be obvious.

The impact on the victims and their families is unspeakable and morally there is no choice but to improve the Cirrus and its safety record.

The Wolk Law Firm has litigated many Cirrus loss of power accidents and while the NTSB will no doubt find nothing to explain this power loss, we recommend looking carefully at the turbo, its bearing and controller, the fuel pump and its controller and whether the exhaust system was functioning as it should just prior to the crash. Absent a catastrophic failure of the crankshaft, a broken rod or a hole burnt into a piston, it is likely the more obtuse causes that explain this sudden loss of power.

Cirrus is now explaining away the accident by claiming that the pilot ran out of gas. Well he didn’t. In fact, he stopped in South Carolina for fuel and was only 3 hours into the flight when the engine lost power, it never quit, it just couldn’t maintain flight. That’s how airplane manufacturers work. After spending the better part of a million dollars with them, they become your adversary when the defects they built in cause a crash.

Kudos to the pilot who successfully made an off-airport landing.

Arthur Alan Wolk


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Essex County New Jersey Bell 407 Helicopter Crash Is Eerily Similar to Charlottesville Virginia Crash of The Same Model That Killed Two Virginia State Police Troopers.

A Bell 407 piloted by an experienced  charter helicopter pilot crashed at the Essex County New Jersey Airport injuring the pilot.

The craft was seen rotating before the crash and pictures taken at the scene reveal a severed tail rotor driveshaft and fractured rotor blades. The tail rotor in that model counteracts the torque from the rotor blades and without it, the helicopter will rotate and it is a miracle that a safe landing was achieved.

The main rotor blades contacted the tail boom of the helicopter and severed it but that only can happen if a mechanical failure induces the main rotor blades to flap excessively. That happens due to delamination of the composite rotor blades resulting in excessive flapping, a stuck anti-torque-pedal limiter or sudden engine overspeed. All three have resulted in Model 407 accidents.

The Wolk Law Firm is litigating the deaths of two Virginia State Troopers killed when their Model 407 did precisely the same thing as in this latest accident, but it also fell into trees and burned.

Bell is defending the Virginia State Police case claiming that LTE or Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness and Vortex Ring State caused the Virginia accident, all of it totally made up. The problem is that both are defects in the design of the helicopter but neither caused that accident or this one.

In the Virginia crash, witnesses saw the helicopter rotating before it settled into the trees and it too had a severed tail rotor driveshaft and fractured main rotor blades.

The Model 407 has a bad accident history with one Band-Aid after another applied by Bell.

Perhaps this pilot who mercifully lived will be able to tell his story because in Virginia Bell relies on the fact that dead men tell no tales. They can’t!

Arthur Alan Wolk


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