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Silver State Helos Closes Shop

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Aero-News Alert: Silver State Helicopters Shut Down


Mon, 04 Feb '08


Troubled Heli-School Hits The Skids

Reports from around the country, and verbal/published confirmations from people claiming to have been employed by Silver State Helicopters, indicate the nationwide flight school operation, known for fanciful claims about employment opportunities in the heli industry and a significant accident record, has ordered its doors shut.


According to reports sent to ANN, as well as a copy of correspondence allegedly issued by SSH Founder Jerry Airola, all operations are being ceased and employees terminated immediately. The situation apparently came to a close at 1700 Las Vegas time, Sunday.

According to the Airola memo, "The Board of Directors has not made a final decision as to Silver State Helicopters. Because the monthly operating expenses, even at the recently streamlined levels, continue to exceed cash flow the Board has elected to suspend all operations effective at 5:00 PM today. All offices are closed effective immediately and all employees are terminated as of 5:00PM today as well. All employees will receive a final payroll check via your normal payment method (check or direct deposit by ADP)."

Regarding the great number of students who may be affected by this situation, the memo states only that, "The students will be notified as soon as a clear direction is confirmed."

Silver State Helicopters was, at best, a troubled operation. With some 40+ facilities around the US, it reportedly operated well over 200 helicopters, and employed 850 people. Criticized widely for an aggressive marketing program that seemed to "oversell" the availability of jobs in the helicopter industry, it was beset by a number of legal problems as students and clients reportedly sued with claims that they had been deceived. A video featuring Airola claims that a, "...Nationwide shortage of helicopter pilots has opened a way to unlimited employment in a career that knows no limits."

Industry experts note that the employment picture for helicopter pilots, especially those with limited experience, seems "far more limited."

Still, business at one point seemed good for a company that claimed that, "Silver State Helicopters achieved a six-year sales growth from 2001 to 2007 of 963.4 percent with revenues growing to $78.1 million in 2006. As the fastest-growing rotorcraft company in the world, Silver State Helicopters has a business model that is unequaled by any other in the industry. The company has the largest flight training institution in the country with the additional commercial operations that include search and rescue, air ambulance, cargo transportation, seismic exploration, law enforcement air support, agriculture, fire fighting and many other services."

Late last year, Silver State Helicopters reportedly 'partnered' with a New York investment firm, Eos Partners. They created a new entity known as Silver State Services Corp.

Another critical issue plaguing SSH was a growing accident rate and legal exposures that occurred as a result of reported malfeasance by the company itself. In a recent Jacksonville, FL area crash that killed two people, an NTSB report called into question maintenance practices and procedures known to be in process at the local operation.

In the updated factual report, the National Transportation Safety Board says poorly-coordinated maintenance practices by overworked maintenance personnel may have contributed to the fatal March 27, 2007 downing of a Robinson R44 near Jacksonville, FL.

As ANN reported, the Silver State Helicopters helo impacted in a nose-down attitude on Ponte Vedra Beach, killing the two persons onboard. In a Preliminary Report released about 10 days after the accident, the NTSB noted the helicopter had just come out of maintenance... and was missing attachment hardware to its control system.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of deceased CFI Tamara Williams by Jacksonville firm, in part alleges liability on the part of the company by stating that, "The Defendant, SILVER STATE knew, based on prior similar accidents and explicit warnings under the Federal Aviation Regulations, in addition to appropriate maintenance/repair manuals, which specify dangers in failing to secure dynamic flight control components aboard the subject helicopter, that TAMARA WILLIAMS was virtually certain to die when piloting the subject helicopter. SILVER STATE'S helicopter mechanic failed to properly connect and safety/secure the helicopter's control tubes to the swash plate assembly of the main rotor system. SILVER STATE'S mechanic deliberately concealed or misrepresented this danger so as to prevent the decedent, TAMARA WILLIAMS, from exercising informed judgment about whether to fly the aircraft. The decedent, TAMARA WILLIAMS, was not aware of this risk because the danger was not apparent to her, as the maintenance error was not visible upon pre-flight inspection, and the subject control tube assembly was covered by a shroud which encapsulated the mast and extended from the helicopter fuselage to the base of the main rotor swash plate. The employer misrepresented the danger caused by the maintenance error in that the maintenance log falsely reported that the maintenance/repairs had been properly completed and that a follow-up inspection indicated that the maintenance had been properly completed."

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