Helo Pilot Charged Again with Federal Violations

Matthew Jones, 35, was indicted last month in a Federal District Court in Utah for violating FARs and wire fraud. These latest allegations follow an indictment of Jones in the same court in October 2021 for previously committing identical offenses. 

After his indictment last year, Jones violated the court-ordered conditions of his release by continuing to operate an airplane without an appropriate pilot certificate. FAA records show that Jones holds a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating for helicopters only. The latest indictment alleges Jones also claimed to be a certified flight instructor, entered into an LLC, and advertised online that he was opening a flight school and charter provider. 

On Dec. 29, 2021, Jones crashed a Robinson R44 helicopter, seriously injuring himself and killing the passenger, reportedly his girlfriend. Jones and the woman had traveled from Utah to Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevierville, Tennessee, to pick up the piston helicopter.

According to the NTSB preliminary report, weather throughout the day was deteriorating from marginal VMC to IMC. Jones was cautioned by several pilots about the dangers of flying in the Smoky Mountains in marginal weather. At about 2:15 p.m., Jones and his passenger departed the airport. ATC radar data showed the helicopter flying through valleys between 1,200 feet and 1,750 feet agl before it hit trees and was destroyed 10 minutes after taking off.