Auction highlights mismanagement at Silver State

Aviation International News » August 2008
July 29, 2008, 11:46 AM

The state of the assets of bankrupt Silver State Helicopters is providing clues about how the troubled company was run before its shutdown and Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy filing in February. At the time of its closing, Silver State was the largest civilian helicopter school in the U.S., with 2,400 students and more than 700 employees distributed among 33 locations. Former employees and students have charged the school and Silver State-approved student loan originators with various financial improprieties, and several states attorneys general are investigating the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy.

Most of Silver State’s 200 helicopters were leased, and those have been repatriated to the lessors. However, sources close to the bankruptcy proceedings told AIN that the situation was far different with some Silver State-owned helicopters. According to these sources, between four and eight Robinson R22s had to be disposed of as parts helicopters because either their logbooks were missing or the helicopters were in such severe disrepair that they were no longer flyable. Offers on Silver State-owned R44s to date have been at depressed prices–often as low as $107,000–in part due to their suspect maintenance history. The bidding action on a few Silver State-owned turbine helicopters, particularly Bell 206s, has also shown a certain softness.

A complete list of Silver State’s aircraft (rotary- and fixed-wing) can be viewed at www.silverstatehelicoptersbankruptcy.com.

However, a source connected to the asset disposal emphasized that “ninety percent of the fleet is fine.”

Non-aviation assets were comparatively sparse. Silver State owned only two of
its fleet of executive Hummers. Approximately 15 Hummer H3s and Ford F150 pickups operated by Silver State executives were returned to lessors. Most Silver State offices were furnished modestly; however, some pricey artwork, including a bronze sculpture and an elaborate wood carving, adorned the offices.

There is evidence that certain assets simply “walked off” Silver State properties in the days leading up to the bankruptcy. These included a workstation computer,
a critical simulator component and a golf cart. The golf cart was later recovered. Sources told AIN that additional property  vanished from Silver State’s schools and offices before the shutdown but may never be discovered. A person involved in the bankruptcy said, “We really don’t know what’s missing.”

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