Casa Grande Man Indicted for Inspecting Airplane Without Proper Certification; Plane Later Crashed

A Casa Grande man faked FAA certification when he conducted an inspection of a small airplane that later crash-landed, says a federal indictment.

Wesley Glen Forsythe, who worked at a maintenance facility at the Casa Grande Muncipal Airport called "The Plane Man," was not a fully qualified airplane mechanic yet still worked on airplanes, the feds say.

On two occasions, Forsythe signed off that he'd completed a 100-hour inspection on an old Alon Aircoupe like the one pictured above. The formal process requires paperwork that Forsythe fudged; he jotted down a certification number issued to another man in 1968, the indictment alleges.

Not only didn't Forsythe have the Federal Aviation Administration certificate he needed to work on the airplane, but he had previously failed the certification test three times.

As it turned out, the shoddy inspection had real consequences. The airplane's owner took to the sky on August 1, 2008, just after Forsythe had deemed the plane airworthy. After an hour in the air, the engine quit. The pilot managed to escape injury after bringing the plane in for a crash landing, but the Aircoupe was totally destroyed. FAA officials later determined the malfunction had been due to a fuel pump that hadn't been properly inspected.

Forsythe is facing five years in prison on each of five federal counts. He could not be reached for comment; the phone at "The Plane Man" is disconnected.


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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.