He came up with an extremely creative way to avoid actually going to aircraft mechanic school. “Making false statements, misuse of an agency seal, and aggravated identity theft.”
Patterson’s records were lost in a mysterious past. He couldn’t show his credentials because he was in witness protection, or so he claimed.
He had been allowed to perform unknown duties as an aircraft mechanic at a Federal Aviation Administration regulated service facility without question.
This week he pleaded guilty to only one charge, lying to the feds by forging a letter. They dropped the charges regarding unlawful use of an agency seal and identity theft as part of his plea bargain.
According to the indictment, “The charges stem from a DOT-OIG investigation into allegations that Patterson falsified a letter that was purportedly issued by FAA and falsely represented that he held various FAA certifications, including an Airframe and Power Plant Mechanic’s certificate and an inspection authorization.”
Airframe mechanics work on things like the hydraulic systems, landing gear, flight controls, fuel systems and other sensitive areas of the plane. Power Plant mechanics work on jet and conventional propeller engines.
“Patterson worked at an FAA approved airplane repair and service facility, and during a routine evaluation of employees, Patterson alleged that he had FAA certifications to do certain work on airplanes. The facility later learned that Patterson held none of the certifications that he claimed to have.”
Proper training is important. A crucial part that fails, in the wrong place at the wrong time, can cause airplanes to fall out of the sky. Passengers can get quite an “E ticket” ride on the way down.
On July 19, 1989, only a miracle and some serious skills from the United Airlines Flight 232 pilots kept the casualties down to 111 deaths. There were 185 survivors of a harrowing crash landing.
Shortly after the DC-10 took off from Denver, the plane “was in a shallow right turn at 37,000 feet.” Suddenly, “the fan disk of its tail-mounted engine explosively disintegrated.
Debris penetrated the tail in numerous places, including the horizontal stabilizer, puncturing the lines of all three hydraulic systems.”
The autopilot cut itself off when the jolt hit, the pilot grabbed the wheel, and the co-pilot cut the fuel to the engine which was not responding to throttle control.
None of the flight controls were functioning, the pilots had no control of the plane’s steering or attitude but they kept their sense of humor.
The plane’s cockpit voice recorder captured the exchange. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll have a beer when this is all done.” one of the flight crew said, and Captain Haynes responded, “well I don’t drink, but I’ll sure as s#!t have one.”
The tower instructed, “United Two Thirty-Two Heavy, the wind’s currently three six zero at one one; three sixty at eleven. You’re cleared to land on any runway.” The captain is heard laughing as he replies, “Roger. You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?”
With fierce determination, they wrestled the plane into the right approach angle and did what they could with only the use of the speed to steer, prepared for a belly landing. The right wingtip was the first to hit, bursting spilled fuel into a ball of flames.
The tail broke off. After bouncing a few times, the fuselage finally came to a rest, in pieces. Passengers started climbing out of the holes.
Back in Greenville, South Carolina, Federal Aviation Administration officials had turned up some holes in Patterson’s paperwork. Some agents were sent around to talk to him about them. They didn’t want another flight 232 on their hands.
Federal Attorney Beth Drake noted in a statement Monday, Patterson “claimed his certifications were under other names because his name had been changed numerous times by the Treasury Department to protect his family from drug dealers who had been investigated by his father while working as a drug enforcement officer.”
Patterson told the feds he was born “David Edward Brooks” but his name had been changed to protect the innocent. David became Jeffery Patton and then later Jeffery Michael Patterson. Nope, says Ms. Drake, “his birth name was, in fact, Jeffery Michael Patterson.”
After agents initially made contact, Patterson figured he could come up with something that would convince them to go away for good.
“On Aug. 22, 2016, Patterson put a seal on a document or documents with dates from 1999. The documents set out his qualifications under the guise of a Chicago area FAA center,” July’s indictment states.
He basically photo shopped some credentials using images he got from the internet. The documents he cooked up “said he was a certified Federal Aviation Administration aircraft inspector, mechanic and commercial pilot.”
A week later, when the DOT guys with the suits and the Ray-Ban’s showed up, they wanted to talk about his freshly minted paperwork. Patterson stuck to his story and only ended up digging himself in deeper.
No sentence has been handed down yet. Mr. Patterson is looking at a possible 5 years in jail and a fine that could go as high as $250,000.