On Thursday, a former FAA safety inspector admitted taking bribes in the form of shirts, dinners, money, prostitutes, and an airplane from key executives of Guam-based Hansen Helicopters.
During Day 19 of the trial of USA v. John D. Walker (owner and CEO) and Hansen Helicopters, witness Timothy Cislo, formerly a $102,000-a-year FAA Honolulu FSDO Aviation Safety Inspector, said he took these bribes in exchange for falsifying multiple airworthiness certificates for Hansen’s fleet of more than 50 Hughes 369 turbine single-engine helicopters. The company leased them out for $40,000-a-month each through a collection of Hansen-controlled, third-country offshore entities for use as tuna boat-based spotting aircraft in the vast Northern Western Pacific. Cislo also said he handled paperwork to help Walker, a licensed FAA A&P mechanic, to qualify for renewal of his FAA aircraft inspector authorization.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Hansen operated a fleet of “Frankenstein helicopters,” assembled for as little as $82,000 each, and replete with unapproved parts, falsified logbooks, and mismatched data plates belonging to scrapped aircraft retrieved from salvage yards. The U.S. government suggested that these practices were at least in part responsible for 30 accidents that killed nine over two decades. Walker has pleaded not guilty.
Earlier in the trial, Marvin Reed, formerly Hansen’s executive v-p and a defendant in separate, related proceedings, acknowledged that the company had been using unapproved parts for years. “Yes, that’s correct,” he told Marie Miller, the special assistant U.S. attorney leading the prosecution.
Reed, along with Hansen’s operations director Kenneth “Rufus” Crowe and maintenance director Phillip “Turner” Kapp had their cases severed in March and are expected to plead guilty to reduced charges during proceedings now scheduled for mid-June. Charges against another co-defendant, Frank F. Litkei Sr., owner of Spares Inc. in Florence, Oregon, were dropped after he died before the trial.
Under questioning from Miller on Thursday, Cislo admitted taking “money and hookers” from Hansen between 2009 and 2017. Hansen also shipped Cislo, who lives in Hawaii, a vintage Taylorcraft single-engine airplane, which he assembled and flew. Miller produced a collection of emails, primarily between Cislo and Hansen’s Crowe, which the prosecution said showed a clear and ongoing criminal conspiracy and a mutually beneficial, informal, and personal relationship. Cislo typically used his personal email address for these communications and admitted to visiting Walker at his home hangar in Missouri.
In connection with the case, in 2018 Cislo pleaded guilty to three felony counts of honest services wire fraud. He has yet to be sentenced but could face penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines on each count. He no longer works at the FAA. During his testimony, Cislo characterized his relationship with Hansen as “completely unprofessional and unacceptable. Any regard for safety was thrown out the window, in the garbage can. I allowed them [Hansen] to operate. I looked the other way.”