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Firm Cleared in Wellstone Crash

November 24, 2002|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Federal Aviation Administration said it found no violations after reviewing hiring practices at the company that provided the pilots involved in the crash that killed U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.

The review of Aviation Charter Inc. was sparked by media reports of background problems with one of the pilots.

It was separate from an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the cause of the Oct. 25 crash.

Richard Conry, a convicted felon who exaggerated his flying experience when he was hired in April 2001, was the chief pilot on the flight that crashed, killing Wellstone, the two pilots and five others on board.

Conry trained for four months in 1990 to be a co-pilot for commuter carrier American Eagle, but resigned while still a trainee.

Aviation Charter managers said Conry told them he had flown 400 hours to 500 hours as a co-pilot on American Eagle ATR twin-turboprop airplanes.

A previous employer is prohibited from providing background information that is older than five years, unless it is related to a license suspension or revocation, the FAA said Friday.

Conry was convicted of felony mail fraud after leaving American Eagle.

Aviation Charter owner Roger Wikner has said he never would have hired Conry if he had known of his record.

The FAA review also looked into Aviation Charter's training of another man who was not on the Wellstone flight.

The man was trained by Aviation Charter in 1999 to be a jet co-pilot after he fabricated a commercial license. The FAA, which revoked his private pilot's license in 2000 after the company discovered the fake commercial license, said the man "never flew passengers [at Aviation Charter] as alleged."

Aviation Charter spokeswoman Mary Milla said Wikner was pleased that the FAA report "clarified the situation," but that Wikner didn't want to comment beyond that.

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