Certification of LSP Trooper Joseph B. Dessens, Air Support’s newest-hired pilot, who crashed a Bell 206 helicopter on October 6, 2021, only 19 days after obtaining his certification to fly solo.
Most longer-term subscribers of Sound Off Louisiana are well-aware of our past features regarding concerns expressed by those with integral knowledge of Louisiana State Police (LSP)’s Air Support operations. In short, these individuals, several of whom have met with Sound Off Louisiana individually, have not minced their words in describing LSP’s Air Support operations. They have used words and phrases such as “reckless” and “demonstrating a total disregard for safety and mechanical matters” to describe the operations of LSP Air Support.
When we published the most recent LSP Air Support feature on June 17, 2021, we indicated that, barring a major development, it would be our last in the series of features on LSP Air Support because it had been made crystal clear to us that LSP Col. Lamar Davis is totally dismissive of the concerns of those who have alleged the operations at Air Support are deficient and, in fact, went so far as to characterize LSP Air Support operations, and specifically the hiring of civilian pilot Carl Bruce Stamey (which our sources cite is a direct violation of LSP policy), as “efficient.” While those who expressed their concerns were nothing short of stunned and dismayed at Col. Davis’ backing of LSP Air Support, we indicated on the video accompanying the just-linked feature that, “We don’t know what more we can do!”
Well, now it turns out that a major development at LSP’s Air Support has transpired, and that is the fact that the LSP Air Support Unit experienced an emergency crash landing on October 6, 2021. While the mainstream media largely provided a “just the facts, ma’am,” and in typical fashion for the mainstream media (note: Channel 2 investigative reporter Chris Nakamoto is a notable exception) simply ran with whatever material LSP issues as factual, we were flooded with cries of, “We told you so!” It wasn’t long before we were receiving anonymous emails telling us that we needed to follow up on this crash and specifically to focus on the experience of the pilot who crashed the aircraft.
Accordingly, we made public records requests for the qualifications of the pilot who crashed the helicopter. That pilot turned out to be Joseph Dessens, and we immediately recognized that name as it reinforced what applicants to LSP Air Support (with considerably more flight hours and training who have been allegedly repeatedly passed over by LSP Air Support Commander Steven Lee), had been telling us: Steven Lee isn’t going to hire anyone who isn’t a close friend of his, isn’t from the Alexandria area, or to be a “lock” hire by him, be both his friend and from Alexandria.
In fact, when we published our April 29, 2021 feature entailing the apparent first-ever hiring of a civilian pilot, Carl Bruce Stamey, in order that Air Support can essentially run a flight school as opposed to performing its core mission, we noted the fact that those aspirants’ concerns became reality! From that feature:
Addendum (4/30/21 @ 12:23 p.m.): Early this morning, we got official confirmation that YET ANOTHER Alexandria Trooper was hired for the most recent pilot opening as confirmed by LSPC Executive Director Jason Hannaman:
State Police Trooper Joseph Dessens was promoted to State Police Pilot on 2/9/2021.
Dessens was hired as a trooper as part of the 2006 Class of Cadets. From the preceding link:
- Joseph Dessens
- John Dauzat
- William Martin
- Alison McCampbell
- James Rougeou
- Joseph Simms
So, Lee does as so many who have expressed frustration with his leadership of LSP’s Air Support unit predicted he would and hired the Alexandria-based applicant, Joseph Dessens, over three other applicants for the most recent pilot position.
The results of our public records request demonstrates the fact that Dessens obtained his certification to fly solo on September 17, 2021 and, a mere 19 days later, he crashed the helicopter in which he was flying.
One of our primary sources for alleged deficiencies of LSP Air Support operations stated, “It was unfair the position they placed that pilot in!”
That informant, who has been harshly critical of LSP’s Air Support Unit and who also guided us on Gov. Edwards’ harrowing flight of late 2018, predicted it was a mere “matter of time” before a major crash transpired. He expressed hope that there would be no casualties when it did. Fortunately, the October 6, 2021 crash didn’t entail a casualty, but the helicopter is a total loss, and Dessens did suffer “minor injuries.”
We’ve also been told in no uncertain terms by pilots with considerable flight training that, while it is “possible” for an uneventful flight from Baton Rouge to Gonzales to suddenly experience mechanical failure right at the most critical phase of the flight (landing), it is highly unlikely and the odds are much higher that the cause of the crash was student pilot error. These critics have also emphasized that LSP is not supposed to be “operating a flight school” out of its Air Support Unit, yet they claim that is precisely what LSP Air Support, under its current leadership, is doing.
As everyone is aware, we reported the concerns of LSP Air Support critics to FAA officials in Baton Rouge. One of those officials conducted an investigation into Gov. Edwards’ aborted harrowing Shreveport flight of late 2018. As we reported, notwithstanding the pilot’s retirement days after the flight, FAA declined to be critical of his handling of that flight or the decision to abandon Gov. Edwards’ Shreveport landing, return back to Alexandria, after which Gov. Edwards was driven by car back to Baton Rouge.
Several news accounts of the LSP helicopter crash of October 6, 2021 (including the one linked above) stated that this crash will also be investigated by the FAA. From the WBRZ link on the crash above:
As is procedure in aircraft-related incidents, the FAA will investigate, State Police said.
One individual who happens to be the same one who advised us to reach out to the FAA regarding the alleged deficiencies of LSP Air Support, contacted us soon after the October 6, 2021 crash and stated that it was “fine” for the FAA to “assist” with the investigation of the October 6, 2021 crash, but that it should be the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which serves as lead for the investigation. He also indicated that it should concern the NTSB that LSP is operating an “in-house flight school.” He said that pilots who wish to aspire to private industry pilot positions should obtain that training, “on their own time, and on their own dime, and not that of the taxpayers of Louisiana.”
With that in mind, he strongly encouraged us to reach out to the NTSB and alert them of the concerns of the LSP Air Support critics, and particularly the fact that a major helicopter crash came so soon after so many of them predicted that it was inevitable.
Accordingly, we did reach out to NTSB officials on November 10, 2021, and they responded back to our correspondence on Thursday, November 18, 2021. Here is the official response to our correspondence:
Thank you for taking the time to send this information to the National Transportation Safety Board. We appreciate your interest in aviation safety.
Jennifer S. Rodi, Ph.D.
Deputy Chief, Central Region
Senior Air Safety Investigator
National Transportation Safety Board
4760 Oakland Street, Suite 500
Denver, Colorado 80239
Obviously, we’ll be providing Dr. Rodi with a direct link for this feature seconds after it is published as a follow-up to her correspondence to us.
So, if a casualty does transpire in the future as a result of alleged disregard for safety and mechanical issues at LSP Air Support, nobody can claim the proper authorities weren’t made aware of the serious concerns of many of LSP’s Air Support critics. We’ll simply reiterate what Burns stated on camera as he wrapped up the June 17, 2021 feature above, and that is, “We don’t know what else we can do.”
As for Col. Davis’ assessment of the unit being “efficient,” we have to openly question if losing an aircraft via pilot error, if in fact that is what transpired vs. a mechanical issue which was beyond the pilot’s control, when that pilot’s certification to fly solo transpired only 19 days prior to the crash, is really all that “efficient.” At the meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club of Monday, November 29, 2021, we provided Col. Davis an opportunity to reaffirm his statements entailing LSP’s Air Support efficiency and the soundness of its operations, and here’s what he had to say:
LSP Col. Lamar Davis staunchly defends LSP’s Air Support operations on November 29, 2021 in the face of an absolute avalanche of accusations that his faith and trust is misguided and misplaced given their totally 180-degree opposite views of the unit’s operations and the risks they assert that the unit poses as a result of what they characterize as “absolutely reckless disregard for safety and maintenance of LSP aircraft.”
Although our sources have not yet seen Col. Davis’ video above, we can already anticipate the attacks they are going to make regarding it. The logic is going to be: “Sure, anyone can have a crash the day after obtaining certification or the day after graduating a flight class, but why are Black Hawk helicopter pilots who ARE experts about the subject matter of helicopters being passed over to hire pilots who clearly ARE NOT subject-matter experts on flying helicopters?” We believe that these pilots are owed an explanation from Col. Davis, and from our perspective, Davis has failed miserably to provide them with that explanation.
We also want to reiterate that the FAA official who investigated Gov. Edwards’ harrowing flight emphasized that, if LSP Air Support is engaging in the practice of hiring pilots with far fewer flight hours over pilots with far more flight hours, that is (an EXACT QUOTE), “a horrible practice!” Nevertheless, he admitted the FAA is “powerless” to make any demands that, “this pilot has to be hired over that pilot.”
Being perfectly blunt, we are deeply disturbed by the dismissive attitude of LSP Command (and Col. Davis in particular) regarding the allegations which we have now extensively reported upon. It is deeply disturbing that the potential exists for Col. Davis to be completely out-of-touch with the concerns which have been expressed to us, but we again reiterate that we’ve done all we know to do to draw attention to the matter, including the question we posed today at the BRPC meeting.
Here are links for past Sound Off Louisiana features on LSP’s Air Support operations:
1. November 4, 2020: LSP Pilot Michael Satcher II to be prosecuted for felony domestic abuse. Satcher subsequently “retired” after first being permitted to deplete all of his annual leave and “K time.” [Which took well over a year!]. Sources have informed us of another former pilot at LSP Air Support who also resigned soon after, “beating the living s— out of his wife.”
2. November 15, 2020: Sound Off Louisiana makes public records requets for pilot qualifications for recent hires. The results of those requests (available here) readily reveal the fact that Steven Lee has an extensive past history of passing over pilots with stellar qualifications (and far more hours of flying) to hire pilots with less hours and/or those from Alexandria (Satcher is from Alexandria as is Dessens).
3. November 29, 2020: An open question as to whether LSP’s Air Support Unit “conned” the Louisiana State Police Commission into de-emphsizing flight hours for promotions and/or hiring purposes. Our sources tell us that it was “nothing short of a con job” and also state that Mark Morrison, who was the Command Chief of “Emergency Response” (but admitted he is, “not a pilot and cannot speak the language of pilots,”) and who has since retired from LSP, made a total fool of himself as he made statements to the Commission to convince them to de-emphasize flight hours for hiring decisions.
4. December 27, 2020: Satcher formally resigns from LSP. We also elaborate on Sound Off Louisiana‘s continuing probe of LSP Air Support Operations.
6. April 29, 2021: LSP is forced to admit it violated its on “trooper only” hiring practices for hiring pilots as it hires Carl Bruce Stamey, a civilian pilot. Our sources tell us Stamey’s hiring is proof beyond any shadow of a doubt that LSP is operating a “flight school” for the purpose of training aspiring pilots to be able to qualify for more lucrative pilot positions in the private sector, which they assert is completely inconsistent with LSP’s Air Support Mission.
7. June 17, 2021: We wrap up our Air Support series by indicating that LSP Col. Lamar Davis defends Air Support’s hiring of Stamey as exploiting “efficiencies.” Our sources were stunned at Davis’ assessment of LSP Air Support operations and how he is able to somehow reconcile his assessments of “efficiencies” as being consistent with LSP Air Support’s core mission (which they strongly stress is, “not to run an in-house flight school!”).
CLICK HERE for Col. Davis’ presentation in its entirety.
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