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TANYA EISERER
The Dallas Morning News

A Dallas police investigation into the department's troubled helicopter unit won't end with the resignation of the mechanic accused of falsifying important safety inspection records, officials said.
The investigation also may expand to look at whether the unit's supervisors played a role in the problems.
Robert Lannerd, who had been on leave since April, resigned this month, citing unspecified personal reasons, said Deputy Chief Tom Lawrence, who heads the homeland security and special operations division, which includes the helicopter unit.
Mr. Lannerd, 40, denied any wrongdoing and said he resigned because he wanted to put the situation behind him.
"I'm trying to do what is best for my family, and that's why I left the city," he said.
The maintenance problems in the helicopter unit, first reported in The Dallas Morning News in April, started after two veteran mechanics left the city's employment in November. That left only Mr. Lannerd to handle upkeep of the city's three new multimillion-dollar aircraft and an older one.
As the department struggled to replace the mechanics, largely because of low pay, many of the unit's pilots became worried about the airworthiness of the helicopters. They told internal investigators that Mr. Lannerd spent an inordinate amount of time in the office and apparently not working on the aircraft.
"I believe Mechanic Lannerd is an incompetent and untrustworthy mechanic who has put the lives of every pilot at risk in this unit with his deceptions and inability to follow FAA regulations on the proper maintenance of aircraft in his care," Senior Cpl. Elizabeth Cotner wrote in a statement to investigators.
Several pilots said they went to the unit's commander, Lt. Anthony Williams, but believed their concerns had been either played down or ignored. Lt. Williams has since been transferred out of the unit.
"It is my belief that Lt. Williams had to be aware of Robert Lannerd's poor job performance," Senior Cpl. Mark Colborn wrote. "He either chose to look the other way, or sanctioned his poor performance, hoping that our unit could continue to limp along" until additional mechanics were hired.
Another pilot, Senior Cpl. Stephen Marksteiner, brought the situation to a head this spring with an unsanctioned sting operation of sorts, records show.
In mid-February, he placed markings on an inspection plate of an aircraft that was due for an inspection. He checked the panel again in late March and found that the markings had not been disturbed even though records indicated the work had been done, he told internal investigators.
Cpl. Marksteiner then reported what had happened to Lt. Williams.
In his statement to investigators, Lt. Williams said he took prompt action once he became aware of the pilots' maintenance worries. He blamed much of what happened on a fundamental ideological disagreement between him and Cpl. Marksteiner about how the unit should operate.
"Senior Corporal Marksteiner will embellish stories in order to be heard and make changes," Lt. Williams wrote. "He does not stop until issues are handled his way."
The city has since brought in contract mechanics to work on the aircraft and redo some inspections. Also, one of the mechanics who quit in November, Karen Prevette, recently returned to the city's employment. She told investigators that Mr. Lannerd had left "inspections incomplete and the aircraft unairworthy."
Several mechanics also mentioned an incident that left the largest of the three new helicopters being grounded for months for repair. They said Mr. Lannerd stuck a screwdriver into the transmission of the still-running aircraft, which caused extensive damage to the roof deck.
"I was told by the pilots that the screwdriver got away from Mr. Lannerd and shot across the transmission like a speeding bullet," wrote Miles Feigenbaum, one of the contract mechanics. "This could have easily killed him" or co-workers standing nearby.
Chief Lawrence said the situation at the helicopter unit has vastly improved. He said he was pleased with the work of the unit's new commander, Lt. David Graham.
"I've gotten positive feedback back on everything he's doing," Chief Lawrence said last week. "Everybody in the unit seems to be responding very favorably."

Story From: The Dallas Morning News
 

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I bet those guys flew over to Encino and spied on someone using their night vision.
That was a great movie, I'd like to be JAFO in one of those units.
 
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