Rhode Island Wing Flight Safety Scandal

Civil Air Patrol

By Skip Munger | News of the Force

To whom it may concern,

For those of you that are outside of the Rhode Island Wing, I felt compelled to make you aware that after 14 years of service to the CAP I have decided to cancel my membership and distance myself from the organization. There are several contributing factors to my decision, but first and foremost is the complete and utter disregard for basic standards of flight safety that have proliferated within both the R.I. Wing and within the NER (Northeast Region) during the past two years.

As a professional aviator with in excess of 40 years of experience I could no longer turn a blind eye to the daily safety breaches taking place within the wing and the region. Having a 40 year career as an airline pilot of a major carrier, a corporate pilot, corporate chief pilot, CFI, CFII, and multiple type ratings, it was only natural that I would take issues with individuals, for example, R.I. Wing commander Rich Hill, who is a non-aviator in charge of an air wing, with absolutely no knowledge of basic aviation practices. When both Mr. Hill and NER region commander Dan LeClair made it clear in no uncertain terms that they were concerned with numbers, not safety, my mind was made up to leave this amateur organization.

For several years acting as both the safety officer and the standards and evaluations officer, I watched as certain individuals refused to comply with CAP regulations and standards of flight, and “expected” that they would not to have to perform check rides in accordance with 60-1 Form 5, 91 requirements. It became apparent that these individuals, including Dan LeClair, were allowed to blatantly violate regulations without being held accountable. When I documented these issues, particularly with LeClair, I was threatened with revocation of my membership if I made any more comments. These issues have been well documented and brought up the chain of command, only to be squashed by LeClair and other incompetent members of the NER.

As an example, after reviewing each flight conducted by Dan LeClair in 2014, I noticed that on not one occasion did he fill out the 104 form, nor did he do a weight and balance and attach it to the form. No alternate airport information, weather information, etc.. was ever entered into any of the flights that he made during 2014. Although contacting National HQ and being advised by operations that it was not only standard procedure, but imperative that this information be entered for every flight, both myself and other concerned members voices were sequestered upon questioning the matter. When questioning Commander LeClair, and forwarding him the regulations as specified by the CAP, again, I was threatened with membership revocation and I was sent a lengthy bogus diatribe of why he did not comply with standards that he himself clearly did not fully comprehend.

For the past 5 years I watched political witch-hunts conducted against Col Tony Gagliardi by the NER commander, Chris Hayden. The result: a mass exodus of long time active and respected members of the R.I. Wing. I watched as Richard Hill conducted his own witch-hunt for political ramification reasons and made it openly known to all of his vendetta against certain members of the wing, including myself.

The result was mass exodus of pilots, senior members, and cadets who stood in solidarity against Rich Hill – members who worked together to unify the wing, expending countless hours of volunteer time to enhance programs, and spending thousands of dollars to move the wing forward, all walked out the door due to the unmitigated arrogance of Hill and LeClair. The arrogance of Hill and LeClair cost the wing several professionals that brought several skill sets to the organization. This seems to be standard procedure in the NER as the behavior is either ignored or condoned. The end result is that of a wing that clearly is not mission capable.

It is clear to me that the organization has deteriorated beyond repair. As evidence, this organization fails to survey its members, conduct any kind of annual questionnaire, and its formal complaint process is flawed to such a point that members refuse to file complaints as they know that they are blocked at the wing or region level.

Currently in the R.I. Wing, one of the members has been made an instructor in the 182. The individual is not competent to fly the aircraft and I pointed this out to Rich Hill on several occasions. The individual refused to take a Form 5 with me as the standard/eval officer, as I pointed out that his hearing impairment and his activity of having to frequently urinate in the aircraft was a hazard to flight. Immediately upon my departure the individual was made an instructor by Mark Jacobs, and in my professional opinion, the individual is a hazard to flight and should not be PIC (pilot-in-command) in the aircraft. More disturbing is the fact that the individual is allowed to fly and train cadets and it has even been documented that he has urinated in the aircraft in front of a female member. “The scenarios that I have detailed should certainly be cause for concern, as anyone with a shred of common sense would have to agree that there exists in the R.I. Wing, a recipe for disaster given the current situation.

In terms of the then-interim standard/eval officer, Mark Jacobs, I documented a violation committed by Mr Jacobs that, once again, was squashed by Dan LeClair. Mr Jacobs presided over a Form 5 / Form 91 for a R.I. senior member. The Form 91 was completed in .2 hrs (2/10ths). I brought information to the attention of Dan LeClair and Rich Hill that the flight release paperwork was falsified, and that it was impossible to conduct both flight examinations in the time that was spent in the aircraft. The 104 form indicated that during the 2 flight, Jacobs and the member departed OQU, traveled to a particular grid 321, conducted a parallel route search and a grid search and returned to OQU in .2 hrs (2/10ths). Rich Hill, Dan LeClair and Mark Jacobs were never held responsible, although I submitted all of the documentation and filed a formal complaint to NHQ.

When the flight release officer engaged in a corporate flight as PIC in the left seat, having been absent of a valid Form 5 for in excess of 2 years, and filling out the flight log as being in the right seat as an observer, the violations went unanswered with no ramifications. In fact, the active Form 5 member in the aircraft was promoted to captain. These incidents that I have described, which went unanswered, made it very easy for me to decide to distance myself from such an unprofessional organization.

In closing I wish to make it known that by the observations that I have made over the past 2+ years, it is evident that the flight environment of the R.I. Wing is one of which will ultimately contribute to a serious accident or incident. Equally as important is the fact that in good conscience I could not recommend any parent to enroll their child in the cadet program in the R.I. Wing as presently the atmosphere that exists is certainly not one of a safe and nurturing environment.

It is truly a shame that the deterioration of this organization and the wasteful use of tax dollars, which by all accounts is evident nationwide, has not been brought to the attention of our elected delegation. That is about to change in Rhode Island.

James Burns, Maj, CAP

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