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Former KTVU, KGO helicopter pilot arrested for flying without license

A photo of KTVU's news helicopter (Flickr: pointnshoot)
A photo of KTVU’s news helicopter (Flickr: pointnshoot)

A helicopter pilot who has flown news choppers for at least three Northern California television stations was arrested for flying without a proper license and making false statements.

The FBI announced on Tuesday that John Michael Dial was arrested in New York following the return of a grand jury indictment. Dial faces two charges of lying to federal authorities and one charge of flying without a proper license.

According to a FBI complaint obtained by The Desk, Dial used the alias Thomas Cuni to obtain a job with Helicopters, Inc., which operates news gathering helicopters for several San Francisco-based broadcasters. The complaint says Dial flew five aircraft over 260 times in the San Francisco Bay Area “without having a pilot certificate.”

The FBI listed the five aircraft as:

  • N7QK (which The Desk has identified as assigned to KGO-TV)
  • N62TV (which The Desk has identified as assigned to KTVU)
  • N95TV (now assigned to a Boston television station)
  • N12KZ (now assigned to a New Jersey-based television station)
  • N5FX (now assigned to a Los Angeles television station)

The complaint also alleges that Dial was hired by Helicopters, Inc. in March 2012 to fly a news helicopter for KCRA-TV (N3QY). The complaint says Dial flew the helicopter between March 22 and March 23, 2012.

Dial was also briefly hired to operate a medical helicopter out of Susanville, California. In every instance, the FBI complaint alleges Dial flew these helicopters without a proper pilot’s license.

The discovery of Dial’s alleged lack of proper flying credentials stems from an incident in April 2012 when he was pulled over for unknown reasons by police in Idaho. During that traffic stop, the FBI says Dial gave police a drivers license with the fictitious Cuni name.

Police stopped Dial a second time for speeding, arresting him after learning that Dial had two outstanding warrants for felony offenses in Washington state. Dial allegedly told police that he concocted the fictitious Cuni name in order to “avoid apprehension for the two outstanding felony warrants.”

The FBI complaint accuses Dial of using over 20 other fake names “as well as six social security numbers associated with those names and 10 dates of birth,” adding that Dial “has multiple theft and forgery convictions on his record.”

A grand jury indicted Dial on two charges of providing false information and one charge of flying without a license. If convicted of these new charges, Dial faces a five year prison sentence, three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

The charge of flying without a license appears to stem from Dial’s operation of the helicopter assigned to KCRA. On Tuesday, KCRA acknowledged Dial had been hired by Helicopters, Inc. as a standby pilot for their news organization’s helicopter.