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Orange County Digest

El Toro : Marine Faces Hearing in Copter Tampering Case

December 15, 1987

A formal hearing for a Marine helicopter crew chief who admittedly tampered with a gauge in a CH-53A Sea Stallion to show that pilots were lax about safety will be held Wednesday at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Marine officials announced Monday.

They said the results of a preliminary investigation into the tampering prompted Col. A.J. Allega, commanding officer of the Marine Aircraft Group 16 at Tustin, to start formal proceedings against Cpl. Kirk Hill, the helicopter's crew chief.

Hill, 24, was relieved of his crew chief duties on Oct. 26 when he reported that he had intentionally switched connections on gauges to prove that pilots flew with unworkable instruments without telling other crew members or reporting them to maintenance.

Maj. Gen. D.E.P. Miller, commander of the 3D Marine Corps Aircraft Wing at El Toro and Tustin, said last month that he would order an inquiry into the matter after Hill's complaints became public. Miller said that Hill had been a crew chief for only seven months and that the pilots he questioned had been flying for years and were respected.

The hearing Wednesday, called an Article 32 hearing under the uniform code of military justice, is equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding that determines whether there is a basis for charges. Upon its conclusion, the hearing officer will decide whether to press court-martial charges against Hill for dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and sabotage, or whethet to let him face lesser punishments or no punishment at all.

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