Tennessee Wing: A Wing Without a Prayer

Col James Rushing, Tennessee Wing Commander

By Anon | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received this in our inbox among others. Thank you for your contribution. Col James Rushing, the National FEMA Liaison officer has a long, documented history of covering up cadet child abuse, misconduct, criminal activity and unsafe flight operations. No disciplinary action has ever been taken against him.]

America’s Air Force Auxiliary — the Civil Air Patrol — is an organization of about 53,000 volunteer members across the nation and around the world, including senior member officers and cadets ages 12 to 18. Using a fleet of over 500 small aircraft, it performs search-and-rescue missions, counter-drug patrols, disaster aid to civil authorities, and conducts its programs for cadets. It also provides aerospace education on its own and through local schools.

But like any other large organization, the CAP has its own set of problems. Some of these problems involve unsafe practices when it comes to its aircraft, and others involve both sexual and physical abuse of its cadets.

And nowhere within the CAP are those problems more prevalent, apparently, than in its Tennessee Wing, commanded by CAP Col James Rushing.

The Tennessee Wing’s Headquarters is located in a house in downtown Knoxville. While it could no doubt be located to an Air Force or Air National Guard base, where it would be provided office space, utilities, and other services for free, this Wing is located in what one source describes as “a house that is falling apart,” and even pays out $3,500 yearly for lawn services in a place where such services are probably only needed for about six months out of every year.

That’s not all that’s falling apart there, according to sources within the CAP and according to several complaints that have been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and even an inspection by CAP-USAF, the organization of Air Force officers co-located with the CAP’s National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, which is supposed to oversee the Auxiliary’s operations.

The Tennessee Wing has ten CAP aircraft assigned and they are stationed throughout the state. And of those ten aircraft, all have maintenance problems which have been rated from minimal to very severe.

The CAP performs Air Force-assigned missions with its aircraft, and it is reimbursed by the Air Force for fuel, oil and maintenance costs associated with the flying of those planes. In the Tennessee Wing, my sources say a minimal amount has been spent by that Wing to keep the planes flying. One source told me that of the amount of money the Wing has been reimbursed for performing maintenance on its aircraft, some was actually spent on the planes, but about $45,000 in federal money has been diverted from aircraft maintenance, and the Wing “refuses to tell anybody what happened to that money.”

And, like many states, the Tennessee Wing receives thousands of dollars each year from the state in order to help it perform its missions.

Tennessee has a public records law, and agencies that receive money from state funds are required to have their records open for inspection and available to any citizen of the state that wants to see them.

However, the reality is that the CAP, in Tennessee and elsewhere, can “just say no.” It takes a civil court action to enforce compliance, and one attorney in Tennessee told CAP members there that they could file a civil action to enforce the Wing’s compliance with the law, but that “it would cost about $30,000 to file such a suit,” — an amount very few CAP members in the state have to spend for that purpose.

The Air Force Report

In the most recent Air Force inspection of the Tennessee Wing, called an “Annual Survey/Audit,” dated November 9, 2005, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by me, the two inspectors, Air Force Master Sgt Samuel M. Heard and the Tennessee Wing CAP-USAF State Director, Lt Col John Cundiff, wrote:

Aircraft: Unsatisfactory.

The following aircraft were inspected for appearance, safety, and air worthiness:

Aircraft Tail #
Cessna 182R N9987H
Cessna 172S N905CP

Aircraft N9987H:

• No documentation in maintenance records that 100 hour inspection was accomplished. Latest log entry was 835 hours; at time of inspection, aircraft tachometer showed 1000 hours.

• AD [airworthiness directive] compliance check at last 100hr/annual was not available.

• Service Bulletins check at last 100hr/annual not avaialble.

• Corrosion control treatment was overdue by five months.

• VOR operational check expired 22 Oct 2005.

• No FAA form 337 for corresponding STC for gust lock.

• CAPF 37a was not available to verify com/nav equipment on aircraft.

• Weight and balance not current, last annotation 1 Oct 2003.

• Taxi light not operational.

• Aircraft tire pressure not in compliance with service manual.

• Day/night VFR and IFR placard needs to be secure in aircraft.

Aircraft N905CP

• Aircraft exceeded four months between oil changes according to last mid-cycle oil change 40-60 hours with engine filter.

• Most recent service bulletins not accomplished.

• VOR operational check expired.

• Old decals on aircraft: CAP seal and “USAF AUX” are to replace old decals located on door, vertical stabilizer and wings.

These were the deficiencies found on only two of the Wing’s ten aircraft. The other aircraft were not inspected by these officers, and none of the aircraft were actually flown by them.

And although supply, communications, vehicles and two aircraft were inspected, the “audit” did not inspect or review the Wing’s finances.

Several complaints have been filed by Tennessee Wing members with the Inspector General of the CAP’s Southeast Region and even with the Inspector General at CAP’s National Headquarters.

In one IG complaint dated March 31, 2005, a copy of which was obtained by me, the complainant writes:

• Lt Col Bill G. Lane had been appointed the Tennessee Wing maintenance officer prior to Capt Spradling assuming those duties last year. Lane has mismanaged the aircraft maintenance program for several years and under his command Tennessee Wing aircraft were not repaired in accordance with CAPR 66-1, Page 2….”

• Lt Col Lane purposely deferred items to hold down costs at the expense of safety. Lane also failed to make periodic checks of maintenance performed to ensure that all deficiencies found were corrected.

• Airworthiness standards have also been violated. It has been stated many times by Lane that “Maintenance service bulletins provided by the manufacturer and forwarded to national for implementation into the field do not have to be complied with.”

• Lt Col Lane did not track service bulletins, nor did the Wing have a tracking method in place to ensure that they had been complied with.

• Lt Col Lane’s failure to comply with this regulation has put our air crews and passengers at risk.

N1354E was put into a maintenance facility at the Gatlinburg/Sevierville Airport. This aircraft was to have an 100hr/annual inspection. The aircraft received a 100hr inspection with no annual performed. Capt Spradling takes over the maintenance program and realizes this was not accomplished — an item Lt Col Lane should have caught. Fifty hours later, it is taken to the maintenance facility at McGhee-Tyson Airport, where upon inspection over 225 deficiencies were found; five of which were safety of flight issues.

N97018 had a 100 hour inspection performed at the Smoky Mountain Aviation maintenance shop in August of 2004 and the invoice was sent directly to the Wing’s finance officer… Lt Col Lane failed to turn this invoice over to the Wing AMO [aviation maintenance officer] for quality control and payment. This is in direct violation of CAPR 66-1.

This has cost the Wing an extra $2,000 by not having a 100hr/annual completed at this shop at that time.

This is the second time this occurred at that maintenance facility, the first being in June of 2004 when N5354E had its 100hr/annual done at this shop also.

This shop always will sign off the inspection as a 100hr and not as a 100hr/annual which has cost the Wing an extra inspection at $2,000 a year. The main reason we do not have work done at this facility is because of high cost and not inspecting the aircraft in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended inspection checklist for the type of inspection being accomplished.

We can only go back to N5354E’s last inspection in June at this shop when the shop owner was told to do a 100hr/annual. That did not take place. The Tennessee Wing had to get an extra inspection done in December of that year at a different maintenance facility in order to receive a properly-conducted inspection. That inspection had cost us over $7,792.07 because there was no work done on this aircraft during the June inspection at the Smoky Mountain Aviation facility in Sevierville, TN, but the aircraft — according to the Smoky Mountain Aviation mechanics — was certified as air-worthy and signed off and returned to service. There were a number of serious airworthiness items that went un-repaired when it left that shop.

In two years, I have had to make three unscheduled landings flying the Tennessee Wing aircraft because of poor maintenance practices.

These planes described above were among the eight other Tennessee Wing aircraft that were not inspected during the “Annual Survey/Audit” conducted by CAP-USAF, the report of which is mentioned above and was dated November 9, 2005.

According to the Tennessee Wing’s Website, Lt Col Lane is now the Wing’s Vice-Commander. [He later became the Tennessee Wing Commander in 2011.]

And what of the IG complaint? Apparently, nothing happened and Lane was promoted into his current position.

Seeking comment from the CAP, I contacted Jim Tynan at the public affairs office at Civil Air Patrol’s National Headquarters in Alabama. Tynan said, “You know, Skip, these things have already been all over the media in Tennessee. We have handled the maintenance issues and Col Rushing has addressed those issues.”

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