Top officials at the sheriff's office refused to answer questions about the flight. The pilot is part of the sheriff's air squadron. Which means he is a volunteer, who used his personal plane to make the trip. But what happened in the air, left detectives with some serious concerns.
One week ago two Fresno County Sheriff's Detectives flew out of Chandler Airport in Southwest Fresno They were headed to Southern California to investigate a home invasion robbery in Fresno County.
Around 7:30 a.m. last Thursday morning, the group boarded a four seat Cessna plane. But before the two hour flight was over, detectives experienced some concerns in the air, and luckily one of the detectives on board is a commercial pilot who noticed the problem.
Apparently the plane came close to restricted airspace above Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The plane was supposed to land at nearby Montgomery Field.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office has launched an internal investigation, and detectives declined our request for an interview. But Fresno County Deputy's Association President Eric Schmidt says the situation in the air was serious.
"During that time, there was some confusion in the air as far as where they were landing," said Schmidt. "One of our deputies fortunately was a pilot, a commercial instructor pilot and helped the pilot who was flying the plane navigate back on track and they were able to land safely."
Action News has learned the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the recent flight from Fresno to San Diego. FAA records show the pilot, Danny Kalmbach of Fresno, got his private pilot certificate in 2004. But, according to FAA guidelines, a commercial pilot license is necessary to transport law enforcement on a plane during the course of their work.
Ian Gregor, FAA spokesperson said, "Generally speaking, you have to have a commercial pilot license to be paid for flying someone from one place to another for purposes other than a pleasure flight. And when I talk about payment, that could be a cash payment, that could be a payment in kind, that could be compensation for your fuel costs, all of those things."
It's standard procedure for the sheriff's office to pay fuel costs for members of the air squadron to fly their personal planes on a volunteer basis. But, what remains a mystery is who is validating the certificates of the no department employees who are flying sworn deputies around California.
We tried to reach the volunteer pilot to ask him about the flight, he was not at the business he owns or at home.