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Wellstone compiled--Minneapolis Star Tribune site search

this is a compilation of articles on Paul Wellstone related directly to the crash, the charter service and pilots, and the family pursuing legal action.
the articles were obtained using the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "power search" site function. only the first article on Wellstone's convicted felon pilot is reproduced in its entirety. the rest of the articles are excerpted in brief--but all of them have complete author citations and URL links.
Wellstone compiled--Minneapolis Star Tribune site search
Wellstone compiled--Minneapolis Star Tribune site search
(photo of Richard Conry, Paul Wellstone's pilot)

this is a compilation of articles on Paul Wellstone related directly to the crash, the charter service and pilots, and the family pursuing legal action.

the articles were obtained using the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "power search" site function.

only the first article on Wellstone's convicted felon pilot is reproduced in its entirety.

the rest of the articles are excerpted in brief--but all of them have complete author citations and URL links.

Wellstone pilot had felony record
Paul McEnroe and Dan Browning
Star Tribune
Published Nov. 1, 2002

Richard Conry, the chief pilot who flew U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter and three aides on last Friday's fatal flight, had a felony record for mail fraud and served at a federal prison camp in South Dakota in 1990, according to court records and attorneys.

Roger Wikner, the owner of the charter company said Thursday that he was not aware of Conry's criminal record but that the company, Executive Aviation, performs background checks on prospective employees. However Wikner said he did not know whether the background check included a search for criminal convictions.

We're required today to do criminal background checks," Wikner said, referring to a rule imposed after the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said Thursday that his staff retrieved the court file on Conry's fraud case but declined to say why. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continue to investigate the crash, whose cause likely will not be determined for months. As part of that process, Safety Board investigators conduct an exhaustive review of the flight crew. NTSB officials did not immediately return phone calls Thursday.

"This is really a stunning revelation," said U.S. Rep. James Oberstar. "It goes to the question of his fitness to fly."

Oberstar, one of the most influential members of Congress on aviation safety issues, said that he spoke with the chairwoman of the NTSB Thursday and that there was no mention of Conry's criminal background. He said he assumed he would have been told about Conry's record if the NTSB had been aware of it.
Jim Farrell, a Wellstone campaign spokesman, said he did not think Wellstone knew of Conry's felony conviction. When told that the owner of Executive Aviation, which operated the plane Wellstone flew on, said he didn't know about the criminal record, Farrell said, "Oh my."

Jeff Blodgett, Wellstone's campaign chairman, said late Thursday that he did not know about Conry's conviction. "Everything we've heard about the pilot is that he was a very experienced, certified pilot," he added.

Conry, 55, did not disclose on his job application that he was a convicted felon, said Mary Milla, a spokesperson for Executive Aviation on Thursday. Conry had flown for the Eden Prairie-based company since April 2001. Milla said that the application asks whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony in the past five years and that Conry answered 'no.' Conry was convicted in 1990 on 14 counts of mail fraud.

Told that Conry did not disclose the 1990 conviction, Oberstar said: "It's more than an act of omission, it's a deliberate act of deception. I can't imagine a commercial airline company hiring a pilot with a known felony record. It goes to trust a company would have in their pilot."

However, two Twin Cities attorneys familiar with aviation law said they knew of no regulation that would require revocation of a pilot's license because of a criminal conviction -- unless it involved drugs or drunken driving.

Time in prison camp

The conviction centered on a home construction and financing scheme that resulted in subcontractors not being paid for their work, attorneys involved in the case said.

Conry was sentenced to two years in Yankton Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, S.D. He was imprisoned in June 1990 and just over a year later was placed in a community corrections program in Minneapolis, records show. He was released in late 1991, a prison spokesperson said. Conry was placed on probation for five years as part of his sentence.

Court records show that Conry was ordered to pay more than $200,000 in restitution and that he made monthly payments of $50 through at least November 1996.

Paul Engh, Conry's attorney, said that Conry was a "fully licensed pilot" at the time of his conviction but that he didn't know whether Conry was employed as a pilot.

Records from an employment verification company used by American Airlines show that Conry was hired as a pilot trainee by American Eagle Airlines, a commuter airline affiliated with American, in November 1989. He got the job just weeks after he was charged in a federal court indictment in Minneapolis. Conry left American Eagle a week before he was sentenced in April 1990 by then-U.S. District Judge Diana Murphy.

Home construction

Before his brief career with American Eagle, Conry was president and chief executive of a company called Lake Minnetonka Homes Inc. The company built several hundred houses from 1972 to 1988, mostly in the western Twin Cities suburbs. Sales exceeded $22 million, Conry said in one court document.
His problems started to mount in the mid-to late-1980s, records show. Atlas Pile Driving Co. and Olson Concrete Co., two subcontractors, sued Conry, Lake Minnetonka Homes Inc. and DiCon Financial Co., a limited partnership, in 1985.
In a civil racketeering suit, the two subcontractors alleged that Conry, a business partner and the companies they formed schemed to defraud them. The case wended through court for several years. Atlas won a judgment and attorney's fees totaling $101,572; Olson's judgment and fees totaled $103,334, records show. Conry and his companies lost their appeal in 1989.

Bud Stannard, owner of Atlas, said Thursday that Conry owed him more than $150,000 at the time of his death. He said he may sue Conry's estate to recover the money.

Just as Conry's civil suit was ending, he was charged criminally with mail fraud in federal court.

About a year after Conry was released in November 1991, he applied to be a licensed practical nurse in Minnesota. He disclosed his felony conviction on his application, said Shirley Brekken, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Nursing. He became a registered nurse in 1994 and disclosed the conviction on that license application as well.

-- Paul McEnroe is at  pmcenroe@startribune.com and can be reached at 612-673-1745 and Dan Browning is at  dbrowning@startribune.com and can be reached at 612-673-4493.
-- Staff writers Pat Doyle, Glenn Howatt, Larry Oakes, Mike Kaszuba and Paul Gustafson contributed to this report.

FAA to review hiring at charter firm used by Wellstone
Tony Kennedy
Star Tribune
Published Nov. 16, 2002
Federal Aviation Administration inspectors soon will conduct a special review of pilot hiring practices at the air charter company used by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, an FAA spokeswoman said Friday.

FAA to review hiring at charter firm used by Wellstone
The Associated Press [AP version of above Star-Tribune story]
Published Nov. 16, 2002
[oddly, this Wellstone family considering lawsuit" Nov. 14 article comes up as seen below on the Star Tribune's search wireóbut when you click on the "Wellstone family considering lawsuit" Nov. 14 link, you end up with the "FAA to review hiring" Nov. 16 AP story . . . same URL, reassigned]
Wellstone family considering lawsuit
MINNEAPOLIS - The sons of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone have hired two prominent lawyers to investigate the airplane crash that killed Wellstone, his wife, a daughter and five others.
Published 14-Nov-2002

Charter company that carried Wellstone to improve background checks
Tony Kennedy
Star Tribune
Published Nov. 15, 2002

The airplane charter company used by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone said Thursday that it has chosen a company to do more intensive background checks on current and prospective employees.

The move at Executive Aviation of Eden Prairie follows reports that two employees -- including the pilot in command on Wellstone's fatal flight -- had background problems that went undetected in their hiring.

However, a spokesman for Executive Aviation said the decision was made strictly to comply with more stringent regulations in the Emergency Aviation Security Act of 2001. The federal law was enacted because of the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, but aviation companies such as Executive Aviation haven't had to implement changes yet.

"This is a coincidence, but obviously it's of interest in light" of what has happened, said Dave Mona, the spokesman.

Ciresi's law firm looking into Wellstone plane crash
Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe
Star Tribune
Published Nov. 14, 2002

The lawyers who successfully handled Minnesota's landmark lawsuit against the tobacco industry have begun investigating the plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Sam Kaplan, legal adviser to Mark and David Wellstone, confirmed Wednesday that Mike Ciresi and Roberta Walburn have been retained by the Wellstone family to consider possible legal action in connection with the Oct. 25 charter airplane crash in Eveleth that also killed wife Sheila Wellstone, daughter Marcia Markuson, a DFL Party official, two Wellstone campaign workers and the plane's two pilots.

In an unrelated development late Wednesday, the charter company, Executive Aviation of Eden Prairie, disclosed that in 1999 it fired an employee who fabricated a pilot's license for himself.

The disclosure is the second time since the crash that pilot hiring at the firm has been an issue.

Wellstone pilot exaggerated airline experience
Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe
Star Tribune
Published Nov. 10, 2002

The pilot-in-command of the plane that carried Sen. Paul Wellstone to his death exaggerated his flying experience by telling managers at Executive Aviation that he had 400 to 500 hours of prime experience at a major commuter airline, American Eagle.

An aviation official with knowledge of Richard Conry's history at American Eagle told the Star Tribune on Friday that Conry only trained there. Conry never was named a first officer or co-pilot at the airline and never flew a passenger flight at American Eagle, the official said.

According to an employment record obtained by the Star Tribune, Conry resigned in April 1990 after only four months in the training program. The stated reason for his leaving was "better job opportunity."
In fact, Conry was sentenced to federal prison on fraud charges a week after he resigned from American Eagle.
Conry was a licensed pilot and had flown private planes over the years. But at American Eagle, "he never carried passengers," the official said. "He never flew a scheduled flight."

The official said he was certain of the information because Conry "never had a classification other than trainee, and trainees don't fly passenger flights."
Executive Aviation owner Roger Wikner said in an interview that Conry had excellent, verifiable flying skills regardless of his background. But Wikner said he never would have hired Conry if he knew the pilot had a felony conviction and less flying experience than he claimed.

American Eagle declined to comment, saying its personnel records are confidential.

Several pilots at Executive Aviation say Conry led them to believe that his American Eagle experience was a major part of his flying career.
Conry never disclosed his criminal history to Executive Aviation, and the charter company's chief pilot, Alan Hoffert, said Conry claimed to have 400 to 500 flight hours at American Eagle in twin-turboprop ATR airplanes that carry up to 66 passengers.

Conry was hired by Eden Prairie-based Executive Aviation in April 2001 as a pilot-in-command. He was one of Wellstone's trusted pilots at the firm. Hoffert, the chief pilot, said Conry's claim of up to 500 hours of co-piloting experience at American Eagle certainly would earn him positive consideration in a job interview.

The question of Conry's experience at American Eagle notwithstanding, Wikner said Conry had excellent ability as a pilot and was legally licensed to fly.
"His training record with us is impeccable," Wikner said. "Some very important people wanted him as their pilot. They liked what he did. They liked the way he handled the airplane."

But Wikner said he would "absolutely not" have hired Conry had he known about his felony conviction and his lack of passenger flying experience at American Eagle.

"There's no question there's enough people wandering around who want to be pilots and are good pilots and have the time and training," Wikner said.
Conry, 55, died in the crash Oct. 25 along with co-pilot Michael Guess; Wellstone; Wellstone's wife, Sheila; their daughter, Marcia; two Wellstone campaign workers, and a DFL Party official.

Conry's widow, Johanne Conry of Minnetonka, did not respond Friday to a reporter's question about her late husband's record at American Eagle.
While the employment record doesn't indicate how Conry spent his time as a trainee, the aviation official with knowledge of Conry's history said he would have spent a significant amount of time in the classroom and practicing on simulators before taking any training flights with an instructor.

Even under a different scenario, however, it still would have been improbable for Conry to have spent 400 to 500 hours flying for American Eagle. Tom Wychor, an executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association International, said 85 hours a month of flying time is considered a "high average" for a full-time turboprop pilot at a standard regional airline. Four months at 85 hours would net a pilot 320 hours.

Aviation Charter firm: typical for industry, far different than airline
Pat Doyle and Mike Kaszuba
Star Tribune
Nov. 4, 2002

Pilot dissatisfaction and client complaints are detailed in lawsuits against the company, which operates from Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie and a base at the St. Paul Downtown Airport.

Observers familiar with the industry call Aviation Charter's operations typical of small charter companies. Still, the lawsuits paint a picture of a world that is decidedly different from flying with a major airline.

Company owner Roger Wikner said last week that the employee dissatisfaction expressed in the early and mid-1990s suits did not affect flight operations then or now.

"If the conditions weren't good here, and we didn't take care of people and have good equipment, they'd go someplace else," said Wikner, who along with his wife, Shirley, owns Aviation Charter and its affiliates, Beech Transportation and Executive Aviation.

Pilots, however, were complaining about working conditions, according to court documents. One accused the company of using "younger, less senior pilots." A former operations director said the company began to pay pilots a daily rate to "produce cost savings to the company."
More smoke 18.Nov.2002 16:45

No-Doz Bukowski

Oh, I see - the plane didn't crash because Wellstone's enemies set it up to crash; it crashed because... convicted fraud artists... don't know how to fly planes, and... the contracting agency that hired him... should have had him fill out a more thorough job application, or done a more thorough... background check or something.

So now the paper is full of dipshit stories about a dipshit lawsuit against some innocent company that contracts out pilots to fly small aircraft; and Wellstone's murderers are busy spending their blood money in the tropics while the men who hired them run the government.

Believe me - there are plenty of criminals who are fine aircraft pilots. Just ask George Bush Sr.

5000. - N.