Huffman Aviation

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Huffman Aviation was a flight-training school in Venice, Florida at Venice Municipal Airport.

Background[edit]

Huffman Aviation Florida was established in 1972 as Venice Flying Service, and was reorganized in 1987 and renamed as Huffman Aviation.[1] Huffman Aviation was purchased by Dutchman Rudi Dekkers in 1999.[2] At the time of purchase, the school had a fleet of 12 small aircraft.[2] Huffman offered private pilot, instrument rating, Commercial pilot, Multi-Engine Ratings, and flight instructor training, but did not offer training on larger, jet aircraft.[3]

More than 80% of the school's students were foreign nationals, following a marketing campaign designed to attract overseas students.[2] It also suffered from a poor local reputation, as the Venice Gondolier ran continuing stories about the flight school's troubles.

September 11, 2001 attacks[edit]

The business gained further notoriety after the September 11th attacks, when it was revealed that Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan al-Shehhi had attended the school to learn how to fly small aircraft.

On July 3, 2000, both applied to the school; Atta claimed to be of royal Saudi descent and presented Marwan as his bodyguard. In August, the school filed the necessary INS paperwork in order to allow both pilots to switch from 'tourist' Visas, to 'student', in order to allow them to enroll in the school's piloting program. While they were allowed to apply, final verification did not reach the school until March 11, 2002, 6 months after both pilots had been killed in the attacks.[4]

For a short while, during their time at the school, both Marwan and Atta lived with a company employee named Charlie Voss for a few days, paying him about $250 cash. After a week, Voss reportedly kicked them out of his house for insulting his wife.[5]

Controversy[edit]

In January 2002, Huffman Aviation again made headlines when the local paper sent a reporter onto its property, who managed to casually move between airplane cockpits, fuel tanks and other "safety concerns" without anybody noticing or stopping him. In March, the school was cited for having left fueltrucks unlocked, with keys in the ignition, at the Venice Municipal Airport.[6]

Dekkers was arrested in early March 2003 on charges filed January 17, charged with "fraud involving a security interest", and was allowed to meet a bail bond set at $1000. The issue dealt with a $200,000 loan that had not been repaid.[7] On the eve of the trial, Dekkers sold all of Huffman's holdings minus 10 planes to Triple Diamond, to gather the money needed to repay his business partner.[3][4] In December 2003, the charges against Dekkers were dropped, because Dekkers "never got any of the money and there wasn't anything he'd done to defraud anyone."[8]

In October 2012, Rudi Dekkers was again arrested for reaching out to an undercover narcotics officer who was gathering evidence against Mexican drug kingpin Arturo Astorquiza in Texas. According to a report by ABC News, "after Astorquiza was arrested, the documents say Dekkers reached out to the undercover officer and offered his services directly. Federal investigators then began tailing Dekkers and eventually arrested him in early December when it appeared he was about to make a drug run for another customer."[9]

Huffman Aviation also engaged in unscrupulous business practices involving at least one supplier of parts to support their aviation business. In early 2001 Huffman purchased a large plexiglass "bubble" for installation on a helicopter from Hiller Aircraft in California. The bubble was shipped insured and received by Huffman. On March 25, 2001 Huffman purchased a duplicate of the bubble glass on purchase order 4986. The second glass was shipped COD, received by Huffman and paid for on check 2204 from SunTrust Bank. Immediately after receipt of the second bubble, Huffman issued a stop payment on the check, claiming the bubble was scratched and the first bubble was also damaged. Representatives from Hiller contacted Dale Krause who stated the second bubble had been installed on his personal helicopter and he was not going to pay for it. Hiller attempted to resolve the dispute finally resorting to contacting the Venice Police Department's Detective Howard Dunn for assistance. Because of the claim the bubbles were "damaged" the Venice Police Department claimed they were unable to assist Hiller even though the bubbles were apparently both used by Huffman. The Florida State Attorneys Office also refused to assist in the matter indicating they would not assist a California company go after a Florida company. [10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About Us". Huffman Aviation. Archived from the original on 1999-01-28.
  2. ^ a b "Raytheon lands 50-plane order, maybe more, from Executive Jet, Inc". General Aviation News. July 9, 1999. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  3. ^ "Flight Training". Huffman Aviation. Archived from the original on 2001-06-04. Retrieved 2001-06-04.
  4. ^ "Six months after Sept. 11, hijackers' visa approval letters received". CNN. March 13, 2002. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Venice Gondolier - 03/02/02
  7. ^ Werner, Michael and Earle Kimel (January 22, 2003). "State files charges against flight school owner". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  8. ^ Kimel, Earle (December 6, 2003). "State drops charge against ex-owner of flight school". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  9. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/head-of-911-hijackers-flight-school-faces-drug-running-charges/
  10. ^ Hiller Aircraft Corp. archive