BY Richard Moorhead, The Western JournalJune 13, 2023
1 year ago
BY 
 | June 13, 2023
1 year ago

Former Business Partners Level Shocking Allegations Against Pilot of Doomed GOP Donor's Plane

Two former business partners of the pilot involved in a fatal Virginia plane crash are raising red flags about his history.

Two sources close to deceased pilot Jeff Hefner, according to The Sun, described him as a user of opioid drugs, including Oxycontin, and a man with a personality disorder who had a history of making serious threats.

Hefner was in the cockpit of a Cessna Citation private plane that crashed in Virginia on June 4. He was one of four fatalities in the incident.

The aircraft was owned by Republican donor Jeff Rumpel.

Rumpel's daughter, Adina Azarian, died in the crash, as well as her 2-year-old daughter and the family's nanny.

According to The Sun, Rob McBride and John MacDonald who were partners with Hefner in a charter flight business in Florida called Island Coaster Charters. They are painting a dark picture of the pilot and former Southwest Airlines captain.

It's a sharp contrast from the image presented by others who knew Hefner, including a friend who told The Washington Post that he called Hefner "Mr. Safety" because of his attention to detail.

MacDonald scoffed at that, according to The Sun.

"Mr. Safety? My nickname for Jeff would be the Grim Reaper," McDonald said of the pilot.

"If you think about the Grim Reaper, every time he's doing what he's doing, he is out there trying to put someone's life in danger.

"And for Jeff to be so sloppy like that? There it is."

The pair accuse Hefner of gravely violating pilot safety standards by consuming opioid drugs in-flight to deal with back pain.

[firefly_poll]

In court papers, according to The Sun, they also accused Hefner of incompetence and mismanagement -- "including failure to properly maintain their aircraft fleet."

Among other things in The Sun report, McDonald accused Hefner of threatening to commit suicide with a gun in an attempt to extort money from his business partner -- and to kill McDonald in the process.

McBride, who was a neighbor of Hefner as well as a business partner, told The Sun that Hefner once tried to convince him to join in removing McDonald from the business. When McBride demurred, he told The Sun, Hefner issued what he considered to be a direct threat.

"And he said, 'You're either with me or against me, and if you're against me you and your family better move, and I don't mean out of the city,'" McBride told The Sun.

[ic_related]

McBride said he sold his home and moved his family, according to The Sun.

"I have a wife and son, I'm not living next door to someone who is capable of something like that," he said.

The Sun article didn't report when that alleged incident occurred, but it states that in August 2017, Hefner went to court to try to remove McDonald from the business. McDonald and McBride countersued, eventually winning at arbitration where a judge also ordered Hefner to pay his former partners $24,817.35 each to cover court costs, according to The Sun.

The findings by Judge David Dugan, according to The Sun, were devastating for Hefner.

"There was an abundance of testimony from McBride, MacDonald [...] of Hefner's improper conduct," Dugan wrote, according to The Sun.

"Much of this testimony was actually corroborated by Hefner’s own testimony.

"These acts include but are not limited to changing locks on hangars and having improper airport access privileges denied to McBride and MacDonald to prevent them from accessing ICC’s business premises; removing and hiding property of ICC [...] denying McBride and MacDonald access to important tax and financial information.

"[And] Hiding aircraft owned by subsidiaries of ICC; pointing a gun at [MacDonald] and threatening the life of McBride and MacDonald on separate occasions; acting in a threatening and belligerent manner to employees of businesses with whom ICC did business; failing to maintain aircraft to an appropriate standard; and making an improper unauthorized filing with the Florida Secretary of State’s office."

An attorney for Hefner's family issued "a blanket denial of all the accusations," according to The Sun.

"On behalf of the family, we categorically deny the attacks upon Jeff’s character or professionalism," a statement from attorney Jason Herman said. "For a more balanced sense of Jeff’s reputation and work ethic, I would speak to the numerous pilots and aviation personnel that he worked with up to and including the day of the tragedy."

Other accounts of Hefner's character are far more positive.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association described him in a statement as a model aviator, according to The Washington Post.

“Jeff was a defender of his fellow pilots’ safety, careers, and family. We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, his family, and his friends. The aviation community has lost a true champion.”

The cause of the fatal crash is under Federal Aviation Administration investigation.

Authorities have not ruled out a sudden loss of pressurization in the aircraft's cabin as a potential factor in the crash, according to CNN.

An F-16 pilot scrambled to escort the Cessna Citation before its crash reportedly saw an unresponsive pilot in the cockpit of the plane.

Herman is vouching for Hefner's safety practices, according to The Sun.

"Regarding Jeff’s involvement with the Cessna - it is required of every pilot that he or she make sure the aircraft is safe to fly and that is exactly what Jeff did here and every time he took to the skies during his distinguished four-decade career," he told The Sun.

"Indeed, Jeff had a reputation for being 'Mr. Safety,' regularly serving on safety committees and training new and experienced pilots alike in best practices when operating their aircraft.

"As far as Mr. Rumpel is concerned, Jeff and the family’s understanding was and is that Jeff was a highly competent, safe and thoughtful Captain of Mr. Rumpel’ s plane."

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Richard Moorhead, The Western Journal

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